Skip to main content

Full text of "The Kristeva Reader"

See other formats


Edited by 

Toril Moi 





Kristeva Reader 

Julia Kristeva 


New York Columbia University Press 

Copyright © organization, editorial matter, and introduction 
Toril Moi 1986. 

Copyright © in English translations of Leon S. Roudiez (chapters 

7 and 10) by Columbia University Press 1986 from their 

forthcoming book, Julia Kristeva: Tales of Love, Leon S. Roudiez, 

translator, New York and Guildford, Surrey. 

Copyright © in English translations of Sean Hand (chapters 3, 4, 
6, 9, 11, 12) by Basil Blackwell Ltd. 1986. 

Copyright © in original French texts of chapters 2, 4, 5, 9, 11, 12 
Editions du Seuil. Copyright © in original French text of chapter 

3 Mouton Publishers Copyright © in original French text of 

chapter 6 Editions des femmes. Copyright © in original French 

texts of chapters 7 and 10 Editions Denoel. Copyright © in 

original French texts of chapters 8 and 13 Julia Kristeva. 

All rights reserved. 
Printed in Great Britain 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 
Kristeva, Julia, 1941— 
The Kristeva reader. 

Bibliography: p. 

Includes index. 

1. Semiotics. 2. Psychoanalysis. 3. Women. 
4. Political science. I. Moi, Toril. II. Title. 
P99.K687 1986 808'.0O141 86-11706 

ISBN 0-231-06324-5 
ISBN 0-231-06325-3 (pbk.) 








I Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 


1 The System and the Speaking Subject 


2 Word, Dialogue and Novel 


3 From Symbol to Sign 


4 Semiotics: A Critical Science and/or a Critique of Science 


5 Revolution in Poetic Language 


II Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 


6 About Chinese Women 


7 Stabat Mater 


8 Women's Time 


9 The True-Real 


10 Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 


11 Why the United States? 


12 A New Type of Intellectual: The Dissident 


13 Psychoanalysis and the Polis 


Index 321 


To think the unthinkable: from the outset this has been Julia Kristeva's 
project. Scanning with exceptional intensity the whole horizon of 
Western culture, her writing investigates the terrains of philosophy, 
theology, linguistics, literature, art, politics and, not least, 
psychoanalysis, which remains the crucial intellectual influence on her 
work. Always challenging, original, provocative, her work can lead to 
no easy consensus. However controversial, it is nevertheless far too 
important to be ignored. Speaking across the conventional disciplinary 
boundaries of the academic world, Kristeva raises the fundamental issues 
of human existence: language, truth, ethics, love. For me, as for many 
other women, the fact that this epochal oeuvre has been produced by 
a woman who often and explicitly chooses to focus on problems of 
femininity, motherhood and sexual difference is an added incentive to 
come to grips with her thought. 

The Kristeva Reader is a comprehensive introduction to her work in 
English, containing a wide range of essays from all phases of Kristeva's 
career. The essays have been selected as representative of the three 
main areas of her writing: semiotics, psychoanalysis and politics. 
Given the conceptual and theoretical difficulty of her texts, each 
essay has been provided with a short introduction presenting the 
basic issues and explicating the central concepts of that specific text. 
The general introduction to the volume aims to provide an overview 
of Kristeva's intellectual development and a presentation of the main 
issues raised by her work. In order to avoid repetition of similar material, 
the general introduction does not, as a rule, repeat explanations provided 
elsewhere in this volume. Instead I have simply added a short, paren- 
thetical reference to the relevant essay, to enable readers in doubt about 
specific definitions and ideas to turn to that particular text and its 
accompanying introduction for further information. 

Preface vii 

Offering at once enough editorial material to help those in search of 
a basic grounding in Kristeva 's complex, disturbing theories, and a 
compact, convenient selection of important articles, some of them 
otherwise hard to come by, The Kristeva Reader is designed for beginners 
as well as for those already familiar with her work. The introductory pre- 
sentations of her texts nevertheless presuppose some basic knowledge 
of psychoanalytic vocabulary, particularly as developed by Jacques 
Lacan, as well as some knowledge of Jacques Derrida's central ideas. 
Any current introduction to literary or psychoanalytic theory should 
provide the necessary background for the complete beginner (see 
for instance the works by Eagleton, Norris and Wright listed in the 
bibliography after the general introduction). 

The Kristeva Reader presents the work of many different translators. 
Sean Hand's translations were commissioned specially for this volume. 
The other texts have been collected from a series of different sources, 
and apart from some minor stylistic changes they are reproduced as 
originally printed. Documentation style and terminology may therefore 
vary slighdy from one essay to another. To intervene in other translators' 
already published work in order to systematize and streamline their 
efforts to reconstruct Kristeva's original French in English would seem 
to be both an insulting and a theoretically useless exercise: there can 
never be one, true translation of any text, let alone of a collection of 
thirteen different essays. 

I would like to thank Julia Kristeva for her continuous support for 
this project. Her positive and encouraging responses to various queries 
have been a steady source of inspiration for my work. My editor at Basil 
Blackwell, Philip Carpenter, provided much practical help and remained 
perfectly calm when faced with unexpected obstacles and inexplicable 
delays. Sean Hand worked hard to produce the new translations required 
for this volume. Terence Cave, Terry Eagleton and Jacqueline Rose 
all provided help and advice on specific points. Needless to say, the 
responsibility for any remaining errors in the editorial material is mine. 

Toril Moi 


The editor and publishers would like to thank the following for 
permission to include the material collected in this edition: for 'The 
System and the Speaking Subject', the editor, Times Literary Supplement; 
for 'Word, Dialogue and Novel', Basil Blackwell Ltd; for 'From Symbol 
to Sign', Mouton Publishers (Division of Walter de Gruyter & Co.); 
for 'Semiotics: A Critical Science and/or a Critique of Science', 
'Revolution in Poetic Language', 'The True-Real', 'Why the United 
States?' and 'A New Type of Intellectual: The Dissident', Editions du 
Seuil, Paris; for 'About Chinese Women', Marion Boyars Publishers, 
London and New York; for 'Revolution in Poetic Language', 'Stabat 
Mater' and 'Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents', Columbia 
University Press; for 'Women's Time' and 'Psychology and the Polis', 
the University of Chicago Press. 


The semiotic project 

In 1966 Paris witnessed not only the publication of Jacques Lacan's 
Ecrits and Michel Foucault's Les Mots et les choses (The Order of Things), 
but also the arrival of a young linguist from Bulgaria. At the age of 
25, Julia Kristeva, equipped with a doctoral research fellowship, 
embarked on her intellectual encounter with the French capital. It would 
seem that she took the Left Bank by storm. By the spring of 1967 her 
articles were already appearing in its most prestigious reviews: Critique, 
Langages - and, not least, Tel Quel. 1 Kristeva's linguistic research was 
soon to lead to the publication of two important books, Le Texte du 
roman and Semeiotike, and to culminate with the publication of her 
massive doctoral thesis, La Revolution du langage poetique, in 1974. This 
theoretical production earned her a chair in linguistics at the University 
of Paris VII. 

In 1966, initially helped by her compatriot Tzvdtan Todorov, Kristeva 
soon met and worked with the most important figures of the blossoming 
structuralist milieu in Paris. Although she started work as a research 
assistant to Lucien Goldmann, her most important teacher was - and 
always remained - Roland Barthes. Reviewing her first published book, 
Semeiotike, in La Quinzaine Litteraire, Barthes wrote: 

I already owe her a lot and have done so right from the start. And 
now I have been made to feel again - and this time in its entirety 
- the force of her work. Force here means displacement. Julia 
Kristeva changes the order of things: she always destroys the latest 
preconception, the one we thought we could be comforted by, the 
one of which we could be proud: what she displaces is the already- 
said, that is to say, the insistence of the signified; what she subverts 
is the authority of monologic science and of filiation, (p. 19) 

2 Introduction 

The reason why Kristeva right from the start of her career in Paris 
was in a position to inspire her own teachers is to be found in her 
unique intellectual background. Having equipped her not only with 
a solid grounding in Marxist theory but also with fluent Russian, 
her Eastern European training enabled her to gain first-hand knowledge 
of the Russian Formalists, and - more importandy - of the great Soviet 
theorist Mikhail Bakhtin, whose work she (along with Tzvdtan Todorov) 
was instrumental in introducing to Western intellectuals (see 'Word, 
Dialogue and Novel'). This double heritage, at once Marxist and 
Formalist, enabled her to make the most of the structuralist impulses 
she met with in Paris, giving her the confidence and context necessary 
not only to learn from them but to appropriate and transform them 
for her own particular project. A third element, however, must be added 
to this picture: the philosophy of Hegel. In his excellent review of 
Kristeva's early work, Philip E. Lewis remarks on the importance of 
Hegel for Revolution in Poetic Language, while simultaneously stressing 
her independent appropriation of the Hegelian concept of negativity. 
'Her relations to both Hegel and Marx', he warns, 'are exceedingly 
complex and never aquiescent, [and] certainly do not allow cursory 
characterization' (p. 29). 

It was, then, this specific and relatively unusual intellectual back- 
ground that enabled Kristeva to take up a critical position towards 
structuralism from the outset. Even her earliest work (from 1967-8) 
exhibits that dynamic, process-oriented view of the sign which in many 
ways still stands as the hallmark of her theoretical production. 
'Semiotics: a Critical Science and/or a Critique of Science' demonstrates 
precisely her radical attack on the rigid, scientistic pretensions of a 
certain kind of structuralism, as well as on the subjectivist and empiricist 
categories of traditional humanism: 

No form of semiotics, therefore, can exist other than as a critique 
of semiotics. As the place where the sciences die, semiotics is both 
the knowledge of this death and the revival, with this knowledge, 
of the 'scientific'; less (or more) than a science, it marks instead 
the aggressivity and disillusionment that takes place within scien- 
tific discourse itself. We might argue that semiotics is that 'science 
of ideologies' suggested in revolutionary Russia, but it is also an 
ideology of sciences, (p. 78 below) 

Introduction 3 

As Roland Barthes put it: Kristeva was always foreign to the theoretical 
scene she was in, radically subversive even of the new science of 
semiology (see 'L'Etrangere, pp. 19-20). In this sense, I think, she 
was never a structuralist at all, but rather (if labels are to be used) a 
kind of post-structuralist avant la lettre. In her preface to Desire in 
Language, she herself gives what is perhaps the best and most accessible 
summary of her own semiotic project, a summary which also reveals 
the intensity of her theoretical engagement: 

Next to structuralism, a critique of Hegelian, Heideggerian, Marxian 
or Freudian derivation jolted its occasionally simplistic elegance and 
carried theoretical thought to an intensity of white heat that set 
categories and concepts ablaze - sparing not even discourse itself. 
Semanalysis, as I tried to describe it and put it to work in Ernieiomxri, 
meets that requirement to describe the signifying phenomenon, or 
signifying phenomena, while analyzing, criticizing, and dissolving 
'phenomenon', 'meaning' and 'signifier'. (p. vii) 

Her own personal situation as a foreigner in Paris, and as a woman 
in an extremely male-dominated environment (with one or two excep- 
tions, the Tel Quel group with which she soon became associated 
consisted of men), also helped to give shape and edge to her ambitious 
semiouc project. 'To work on language, to labour in the materiality of 
that which society regards as a means of contact and understanding, 
isn't that at one stroke to declare oneself a stranger/foreign [etranger] 
to language?' she asks defiantly in the first sentence of Semeiotike. Ten 
yeas later, she stresses the fact of her femaleness as one of the deter- 
minants of her theoretical outlook: 'It was perhaps also necessary to 
be a woman to attempt to take up that exorbitant wager of carrying the 
rational project to the outer borders of the signifying venture of men . . . ' 
(Desire in Language, p. x). It is, then, in her own exiled and marginalized 
position as an intellectual woman in Paris in the late sixties, as well 
as in her specific intellectual lineage, that we can locate the formative 
influences on Kristeva's early work. 

Tel Quel: the politics of post-modernism? 

From her earliest days in Paris, Kristeva's work was associated with 
the Tel Quel group headed by the novelist and theorist Philippe Sollers, 

4 Introduction 

who later became her husband. One of her very first articles to be 
published in France appeared in Tel Quel as early as the spring of 1967 
(Tour une sdmiologie des paragrammes', Tel Quel, 29). By the summer 
of 1970 she had become a member of the editorial board, where she 
remained until 1983, when Tel Quel liquidated itself and the prestigious 
series of books published under its imprint, relinquishing its links with 
the Editions du Seuil, only to re-emerge from the ashes as the new 
journal L'Infini, now published by Denoel, who also published 
Kristeva's latest full-length book, Histoires d 'amour (1983). 

In the late sixties Tel Quel became a centre of gravitation for almost 
all of the younger generation of structuralist and emerging post- 
structuralist theorists in France. The Theorie d' ensemble, published as 
a collective work after the uprising of May 1968, has contributions from 
Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Marcelin Pleynet 
and Jean Ricardou as well as Julia Kristeva, Philippe Sollers and a series 
of other avant-garde critics. Although Tel Quel never published any 
of Foucault's books, they did publish Barthes, Derrida, Genette, 
Todorov, Ricardou and, of course, Kristeva and Sollers, as well as many 
other works of an 'experimental' nature (whether 'theoretical' or 

What, then, was the hallmark of this group in the late sixties? If one 
were to summarize their project in one single concept, it would have 
to be, I think, the idea of a 'modernist theory' as distinct from a mere 
theory of modernism. Focusing, like structuralism, on language as the 
starting-point for a new kind of thought on politics and the subject, 
the group based its work on a new understanding of history as text; 
and of writing (ecriture) as production, not representation. Within these 
parameters, they sought to elaborate new concepts for the description 
of this new vision of the social or signifying space (Kristeva, with her 
coinage of terms such as 'intertextuality', 'signifying practice' or 
'signifiance', 'paragramme', 'genotext' and 'phenotext', was the main 
exponent of this specific trend); to produce a plural history of different 
kinds of writing situated in relation to their specific time and space; 
and, finally, to articulate a politics which would constitute the logical 
consequence of a non-representational understanding of writing. 2 

The Tel Quel group thus perceived itself and its own avant-garde 
activity as political, in a way which came increasingly to be identified 
with Maoism. Their political commitment in the late 1960s, however, 
can only be understood in the context of May 1968. Students and other 

Introduction 5 

intellectuals in the 1980s, struggling against a climate of unemployment, 
recession and increasingly savage cuts in the educational institutions, 
may have some trouble in understanding the exhilarating effect of the 
May revolt on students and intellectuals all over the world. It took 
everybody, including the Left, by surprise: 'The May Revolution in 
France was foreseen by nobody. It burst upon the world without 
warning. It did not fit any preconceived pattern*, wrote the young editors 
of the British New Left Review in their investigation of the 'events' 
toward the end of that momentous year. 3 Here was what seemed an 
incipient revolution inspired and instigated by students and some of 
their teachers, supported and taken over by workers: at one time over 
ten million workers in France were on strike, in spite of active opposition 
from the French Communist Party (the PCF) and the communist- 
controlled sections of the trade union movement. 

The May revolt was soon rolled back by the state. The parliamentary 
elections which followed the uprising produced an overwhelming victory 
for Gaullism, and the Left massively blamed the PCF for its defeat. 
For in May and June of 1968 the PCF went to great lengths to prevent 
the two potentially revolutionary forces - students and workers - from 
engaging with each other, locking factory gates and sending workers 
home in order to prevent sit-ins and occupations. Rejecting the unortho- 
dox methods (occupations, sit-ins, street fighting) of the revolutionary 
students and workers, the PCF opted decisively for parliamentary 
politics, thus aligning itself with the liberal democratic institutions of 
the bourgeois state. In spite of the defeat of the militancy, however, 
the French - and more generally the European - Left saw May 68 as 
a tremendous encouragement for their own political activism: the revolu- 
tion was still possible, Marxist theory was still relevant to contemporary 
political struggles in the Western world and, most importantly in our 
context, intellectuals did have a revolutionary role to play after all. 'The 
May events vindicated the fundamental socialist belief that the industrial 
proletariat is the revolutionary class of advanced capitalism', wrote the 
editors of New Left Review. 'It has at the same stroke, made indisputable 
the vital revolutionary role of intellectuals, of all generations. The 
combination of the two was precisely the chemical formula which 
produced the shattering explosion of May' (p. 7). 

The reactionary role played by the PCF in this process put an end 
to the possibility of a meaningful dialogue between the French Left 
and the Communist Party, which was now perceived as nothing but 

6 Introduction 

the agent of the revisionist regime of the Soviet Union. Many committed 
left-wingers accordingly looked for other radical alternatives. The Soviet 
invasion in Czechoslovakia in August 1968 did nothing to endear the 
Soviet Union to Western intellectuals. At the same time, the steady 
escalation of the Vietnam war fuelled the anti- American tendencies of 
the French Left. It was in this context that the French gauchistes came 
to look to China, or to some kind of libertarian anarchism (or at times 
to a highly confusing mixture of both), for political inspiration. 

For the Tel Quel group, China seemed to offer a radical perspective 
compatible with their own theoretical and artistic endeavours. In the 
late sixties their vision of The People's Republic, firmly rooted on the 
Left Bank as it was, seems to have constructed the Cultural Revolution 
as an effort towards the creation of a materialist practice bearing on 
the sign. Textual productivity, the desire to rewrite history as an open- 
ended text, the destruction of the monolithic institutions of the sign 
or the signifying space: all this seemed to euphoric, outside sympathizers 
to be taking place in Mao's China. The Red Brigades destroying the 
material institutions of traditional intellectual power seemed to point 
a way forward for the West. What Tel Quel did not know then, of course, 
was that behind the facade of smiling Chinese worker-intellectuals, 
happily tending pigs or spreading dung in order to increase their 
understanding of historical materialism, there was another, grimmer 
reality: the tortured, dead or dying Chinese, intellectuals and non- 
intellectuals alike, sacrificed to the greater glory of Chairman Mao. 

The Tel Quel group's interest in China culminated in their three week 
long visit in April and May of 1974. Kristeva, having been brought 
up under an East European Communist regime, was probably never as 
uncritically enthusiastic about China as some other French intellectuals 
at the time. For her, China could not function as the absolute Other, 
in the way it obviously did for other members of Tel Quel. In this way, 
she also avoided suffering their disillusionment when the truth about 
the Cultural Revolution became generally known, and Mao turned out to 
have been a Stalinist wolf in Chinese clothing after all. In a conversation 
with Rosalind Coward at the Institute for Contemporary Art in London 
in 1983, Kristeva explained how the 'Chinese experience', coinciding as 
it did with her encounter with feminism and her own entry into psycho- 
analysis, made her re-evaluate her political positions and decide to settle 
for a more localized interest in the individual, thus in effect abandoning 
her previous interest in a more general, political engagement: 4 

Introduction 7 

In the meantime we went to China and for me it was more a cultural 
interest than a political one. There were both interests. But I 
wanted to see what can be done when Marxism is developed in 
a country that possessed a different cultural background, that 
doesn't have a monolithic religion, that thinks in a particular way, 
that speaks in a particular way because I think the Chinese character 
and language indicate not a particular mentality, which would be 
a racist position, but a different logic of organisation. I wanted 
to see what could be the difference of a society organised on the 
basis of the meeting of these two components. And what I saw 
was very problematic, particularly in the situation of women. 
Several positive things have been done and said but I couldn't 
notice any liberation of women in the sense of the Western 
movements, and of course in different fields, as well. So this was 
for me a point of re-evaluation of the whole problematic of political 
involvement. And personally from the point of view of my own 
development I thought that it would be more honest for me not 
to engage politically but to try to be helpful or useful in a narrow 
field, where the individual life is concerned, and where I can 
do something more objective and maybe more sharp, and more 
independent of different political pressures, (p. 25) 

In 1974 Kristeva published her experience of the women of China 
in Des Chinoises, translated in 1977 as About Chinese Women. And in 
the period from about 1974 to 1977 her intellectual interests did undergo 
an obvious shift: away from the purely linguistic or semiotic work which 
culminated in Revolution in Poetic Language, and towards a more 
psychoanalytically oriented examination of the problems of femininity 
and motherhood, either as embodied in Western representations of 
women or mothers, or as an area posing new theoretical problems for 
the psychoanalyst. This shift is not unrelated to the fact that during 
this period she herself became a mother (her son was born in 1976), 
and completed her training as a psychoanalyst, starting her own 
psychoanalytic practice in 1979. In this volume, the excerpts from About 
Chinese Women (1974), 'Stabat Mater' (1977), 'The True-Real' (1979) 
and 'Women's Time' (1979) trace this development of her thought, 
a development that can be said to culminate in her ambitious study of 
love in the Western world, Histoires d'amour (1983). 
Kristeva 's 1977 article 'A New Type of Intellectual: the Dissident', 

8 Introduction 

which presents what one may call a politics ofmarginality, demonstrates 
at once her loss of belief in collective political action (she describes the 
politically active intellectual as someone hopelessly caught in the very 
logic of power he or she is seeking to undermine) and her continued 
commitment to a politicized analysis of intellectual activity. 'Why the 
United States?', also published in 1977, again demonstrates the Tel Quel 
group's tendency to project their own theoretical and aesthetic positions 
on to a conveniently distant Other - this time the USA. Since China 
turned out not to exemplify the revolution of the signifying space after 
all, Tel Quel looked to the States instead. Their presentation of the USA 
as a non-verbal culture which to some extent escapes the more repressive 
aspects of the Law of the Father has come in for harsh criticism from 
the Left. 5 However, it is important to notice that it is Kristeva herself 
who sounds a warning note against any such simplistic idealization of 
the States. In an illuminating presentation of her thought, Jacqueline 
Rose points out that Kristeva in this interview not only praises 'the 
"non-verbal" aspects of modern American culture which draw. . .on 
the realms of "gesture, colour and sound", but [also asks] whether that 
same non-verbalisation might not also be the sign of a resistance, the 
almost psychotic hyper-activity of a violent and overproductive culture 
incessantly on the go'. 6 

In the 1980s it would seem that Kristeva, while not seeking to 
deny the relative importance of the political, refuses to accord it 
a general or primary status. Explicitly distancing herself from the 
slogan that 'everything is political', she argues for the need to elabo- 
rate a more complex understanding of the apparently non-political 
aspects of human life. For her, the fact that love or desire cannot 
be adequately understood by an exclusively political discourse becomes 
a crucial argument for the widening of the traditional horizons of 
the Left: 

The political discourse, the political causality which is dominant 
even in human sciences in universities and everywhere is too narrow 
and too feeble in comparison with St Bernard and St Thomas. If 
we stay with only a political explanation of human phenomena we 
will be overwhelmed by the so-called mystical crisis, or spiritual 
crisis - that happens, it's a reality. Every bourgeois family has 
a son or daughter who has a mystical crisis - it's understandable 
because of this very schematic explanation of such phenomena as 

Introduction 9 

love or desire simply by politics. So my problem is: how, through 
psychoanalysis or something else like art, through such dis- 
courses can we try to elaborate a more complicated elaboration, 
discourse sublimation of these critical points of the human 
experience which cannot be reduced to a political causality. (ICA 
conversation, p. 25). 7 

Feminism and femininity 

Kristeva's relationship to feminism has always been that of a somewhat 

critical fellow-traveller. This position appears more puzzling, perhaps, 

in a British or American context than it does in France. For at least 

some of Kristeva's more negative references to 'feminism' (often 

deliberately put in inverted commas) would seem to be directed against 

'feminism' as defined in Paris by the Psych et Po group (who run the 

publishing house des femmes) - that is, as a reformist movement 

consisting of women seeking power within the existing framework of 

the bourgeois state. Such a position would be called 'bourgeois' or 

'liberal' feminism in English-speaking countries, and as such is not at 

all representative of the politics of a great many feminist intellectuals 

on both sides of the Atlantic. At other times, however, her use of the 

word comes much closer to the more general English definition of it 

as a movement seeking to put an end to all forms of patriarchal or sexist 

power. At this general level, there is a sense in which Kristeva's texts, 

concerned as they are with the subversion and disruption of all 

monolithic power structures, can be taken to support such a goal. Yet 

the fact that she has apparently remained aloof from the call for explicitly 

feminist approaches to Western cultural tradition and her clearly stated 

disapproval of the feminist insistence on the need to politicize all human 

relationships would seem to indicate a curiously distant relationship to 

current feminist debates and to feminism in general. 

In her essay 'From Ithaca to New York' ('D'lthaca a New York'), 
first published in 1974 and reprinted in Polylogue (1977), Kristeva sets 
out the double bind of the feminist movement as she then perceived 
it. Characterizing it as a movement of hysterics (a term which in this 
context is to be taken as a descriptive, clinical term, much in the way 
it is used by Helene Cixous in her discussion of Frued's Dora in La 
Jeune nee, and not as a masculinist put-down), she argues that the 
hysteric split between non-verbal substance (defined as the body, the 

10 Introduction 

drives, jouissance) on the one hand, and the Law on the other, repeats 
itself in the demands and activities of the women's movement. The 
problem is that as soon as the insurgent 'substance* speaks, it is 
necessarily caught up in the kind of discourse allowed by and submitted 
to the Law: 

At the moment, this is all there is, and that's not bad. But will 
there be more? A different relationship of the subject to discourse, 
to power? Will the eternal frustration of the hysteric in relation 
to discourse oblige the latter to reconstruct itself? Will it give rise 
to unrest in everybody, male or female? Or will it remain a cry 
outside time, like the great mass movements that break up the 
old system, but have no problem in submitting to the demands 
of order, as long as it is a new order? (Polylogue, p. 511) 

Capturing much of Kristeva's continuing unease with feminism, this 
passage also illuminates her consistent and fundamental project: the 
desire to produce a discourse which always confronts the impasse of 
language (as at once subject to and subversive of the rule of the Law), 
a discourse which in a final aporetic move dares to think language against 
itself, and in so doing knowingly situates itself in a place which is, quite 
literally, untenable. 

In one sense, Kristeva's relatively distant attitude towards feminism 
stems from her fear that any kind of political idiom, be it liberal, socialist 
or feminist, will necessarily reveal itself as yet another master-discourse. 
Although this danger is real enough, I feel that she here underestimates 
the truly subversive potential of one of the most unsettling political 
discourses of our time. This is not to say that Kristeva is wrong to indict 
the distressing tendency of some contemporary forms of feminism 
towards simplistic, anti-intellectual analyses of women's position and 
struggle. It is, however, to argue that this is no reason to reject feminism 
en bloc. 

Kristeva has repeatedly criticized liberal or bourgeois feminism for 
its lack of radicalism (see for instance 'Women's Time' in this volume), 
although she has reserved her most severe criticisms for French radical 
feminism or the kind of feminism which emphasizes women's intrinsic 
difference from men. In an article written for the Nouvelle Revue de 
Psychanalyse and published in 1979, she warns against a too rapid 
valorization of difference: 

Introduction 1 1 

The desire to give voice to sexual difference, and particularly to 
the position of the woman-subject within meaning and significa- 
tion, leads to a veritable insurrection against the homogenizing 
signifier. However, it is all too easy to pass from the search for 
difference to the denegation of the symbolic. The latter is the same 
as to remove the 'feminine' from the order of language (understood 
as dominated exclusively by the secondary process) and to inscribe 
it within the primary process alone, whether in the drive that calls 
out or simply the drive tout court. In this case, does not the struggle 
against the "phallic sign' and against the whole mono-logic, mono- 
theistic culture which supports itself on it, sink into an essentialist 
cult of Woman, into a hysterical obsession with the neutralizing 
cave, a fantasy arising precisely as the negative imprint of the 
maternal phallus? ... In other words, if the feminine exists, it only 
exists in the order of signifiance or signifying process, and it is 
only in relation to meaning and signification, positioned as their 
excessive or transgressive other that it exists, speaks, thinks (itself) 
and writes (itself) for both sexes. (*I1 n'y a pas de maftre a langage', 
pp. 134-5) 

Although primarily directed against the French 'feminism of differ- 
ence' and various French theories of an icriture feminine (differently and 
divergently represented by the Psych et Po group, Helene Cixous and 
Luce Irigaray), 8 this somewhat polemical passage highlights Kristeva's 
own position on the question of femininity: as different or other in 
relation to language and meaning, but nevertheless only thinkable within 
the symbolic, and therefore also necessarily subject to the Law. Main- 
taining such a finely balanced position is far from easy, and Kristeva 
herself has from time to time written about femininity in terms which 
would seem to equate the feminine with the 'semiotic' or the pre- 
Oedipal. While emphasizing these slippages in her discourse, Jacqueline 
Rose's critique of Kristeva convincingly sums up the difficulties of her 
project as it developed from a concentration on the semiotic (Revolution 
in Poetic Language) to an exploration of the hidden fantasies of violence 
and destruction linked to the pre-Oedipal mother {Powers of Horror): 

Kristeva's work splits on a paradox, or rather a dilemma: the 
hideous moment when a theory arms itself with a concept of 
feniininity as different, as something other to the culture as it is 

12 Introduction 

known, only to find itself face to face with, or even entrenched 
within, the most grotesque and fully cultural stereotypes of femi- 
ninity itself. Unlike some of her most virulent detractors, Kristeva 
at least knows, however, that these images are not so easily 
dispatched. It is not by settling the question of their origins that 
we can necessarily dismantle their force. 9 

In Histoires d y amour, Kristeva takes a step further away from any 
tendencies towards an idealization of the pre-Oedipal mother, or the 
semiotic as an idealized feminine enclave, by introducing the concept 
of the 'father of personal prehistory' or pre-Oedipal father, understood 
as the mother's desire of the phallus, who intervenes crucially at the 
fourth month of the child's life in order to effectuate the first, 
preliminary split within the void of primary narcissism (see 'Freud and 
Love'). 10 

Psychoanalysis and the subject 

In the late sixties and early seventies Kristeva 's linguistic theory came 
to be increasingly influenced by psychoanalysis, an influence which 
resulted in the psycho-linguistic understanding of language proposed 
in Revolution in Poetic Language. 11 These theories have in their turn 
become the starting-point for a series of discussions of the status of the 
subject and of the question of identity in psychoanalysis, an issue of 
central importance also to political theories such as feminism or 

Revolution in Poetic Language presents a theory of the processes which 
constitute language. These are centred on the speaking subject (see also 
'The System and the Speaking Subject' in this volume). Setting out 
to understand the signifying process (signifiance), Kristeva transforms 
Lacan's distinction between the imaginary and the symbolic order into 
a distinction between the semiotic and the symbolic. The interaction 
between these two terms (which, it must be stressed, are processes, not 
static entities) then constitutes the signifying process. The semiotic is 
linked to the pre-Oedipal primary processes, the basic pulsions of which 
Kristeva sees as predominantly anal and oral, and as simultaneously 
dichotomous (life/death, expulsion/introjection) and heterogeneous. The 
endless flow of pulsions is gathered up in the chora (from the Greek 
word for enclosed space, womb). Kristeva appropriates and redefines 

Introduction 13 

this Platonic concept and concludes that the chora is neither a sign nor 
a position, but 'an essentially mobile and extremely provisional articula- 
tion constituted by movements and their emphemeral stases . . . Neither 
model nor copy, the chora precedes and underlies figuration and thus 
specularization, and is analogous only to vocal and kinetic rhythm* 
(pp. 93-4 below). 

For Kristeva, signifiance is a question of positioning. The semiotic 
continuum must be split if signification is to be produced. This splitting 
(coupure) of the semiotic chora is the thetic phase (from thesis), enabling 
the subject to attribute differences and thus signification to what was 
the ceaseless heterogeneity of the chora. Following Lacan, Kristeva posits 
the mirror phase as the first step that permits 'the constitution of objects 
detached from the semiotic chora' (p. 100 below), and the Oedipal phase 
with its threat of castration as the moment in which the process of 
separation or splitting is fully achieved. Once the subject has entered 
into the symbolic order, the chora will be more or less successfully 
repressed and can be perceived only as pulsional pressure on or within 
symbolic language: as contradictions, meaninglessness, disruption, 
silences and absences. The chora, then, is a rhythmic pulsion rather 
than a new language. It constitutes the heterogeneous, disruptive 
dimension of language, that which can never be caught up in the closure 
of traditional linguistic theory. 

Kristeva is acutely aware of the contradictions involved in trying to 
theorize the untheorizable chora, a contradiction located at the centre 
of the semiotic enterprise: 'Being, because of its explanatory meta- 
linguistic force, an agent of social cohesion, semiotics contributes to 
the formation of that reassuring image which every society offers itself 
when it understands everything, down to and including the practices 
which voluntarily expend it' ('The System and the Speaking Subject', 
p. 31 below). Semiotic theory is therefore always already caught up 
in a paradox, an aporia which is the same as that of the speaking subject: 
both find themselves in a position which is at once subversive of and 
dependent on the law. The Kristevan subject is a subject-in-process 
(sujet en proces), but a subject nevertheless. We find her carrying out 
once again a difficult balancing act between a position which would 
deconstruct subjectivity and identity altogether, and one that would 
try to capture these entities in an essentialist or humanist mould. 

It is Kristeva's psychoanalytic practice that makes her put the case 
with such force for an unstable and always threatened, yet nevertheless 

14 Introduction 

real and necessary, form of subjectivity. The analyst is after all engaged 
in the task of healing her patients, and has therefore to provide them 
with some kind of 'identity' which will enable them to live in the world, 
that is to say, within the symbolic order dominated by the law. This 
is not to say that the analyst turns her patients into slavish conformists, 
but rather that without some kind of subject structure, meaningful, 
subversive or creative action is impossible. At the end of Histoires 
d y amour > Kristeva raises the question of the aim of psychoanalytic 
treatment. Is it really tenable to see the attempt to give the empty 
'borderline case' (see the introduction to 'The True- Real') what might 
very well be yet another 'false self as the end of the analysis? Arguing 
that it may be preferable to leave such patients their moments of empti- 
ness, inauthenucity and absence, Kristeva nevertheless affirms that it 
is necessary first and foremost to help them to overcome the pain that 
made them seek psychoanalytic help in the first place. The modern, 
unstable and empty subject, she argues, ought not to be fixed and 
stabilized, but to be turned into a work in progress. This means that 
psychoanalytic patients must be left, at the end of analysis, in a position 
which enables them to express themselves. But expression requires 
subjectivity, and therefore the Law, which constructs speaking sub- 
jects in the first place. Perhaps, therefore, the speaking or writing 
one ought to seek out for such patients would be imaginative and 
imaginary, Kristeva argues, since this is the only kind of activity that 
can fill the narcissistic void without fixing it in a too rigid concept of 

In a recent interview, Kristeva explains this notion of the imaginary 
and the imagination as a support for identity: 

I think that in the imaginary, maternal continuity is what 
guarantees identity. One may imagine other social systems where 
it would be different . . .The imaginary of the work of art, that 
is really the most extraordinary and the most unsettling imitation 
of the mother-child dependence. [It is] its substitution and its 
displacement towards a limit which is fascinating because inhuman. 
The work of art is independence conquered through inhumanity. 
The work of art cuts off natural filiation, it is patricide and 
matricide, it is superbly solitary. But look back-stage, as does the 
analyst, and you will find a dependence, a secret mother on whom 
this sublimation is constructed. (Les Cahiers du GRIF, 32, p. 23) 

Introduction 15 

The imaginary is the realm of the discourse of transference, which is 
love (see 'Freud and Love'). Love, for Kristeva, then becomes the 
indispensable element of the cure, the moment of structuring which 
intervenes in the imaginary chaos, an organizing force produced by the 
intervention of the 'father of personal prehistory' in the very first months 
of the child's life. The psychoanalytic situation is one in which such 
love (transference love) is allowed to establish itself, if only precariously 
and only in order to undo itself in the end. It is, then, this transference 
love which allows the patient tentatively to erect some kind of subjec- 
tivity, to become a subject-in-process in the symbolic order. The 
psychoanalytic interpretation, then, is precisely one that is poised in 
the space suspended between One Meaning and the deconstructive 
rejection of all truth, however tentative (see 'Psychoanalysis and the 
Polis'). A commitment to the concept of psychic identity, Jacqueline 
Rose argues, need not be politically reactionary or collude with the 'way 
that identity is paraded in the culture at large': 

Far from this involving a denial of the other psychic forces which 
have been at the centre of her writing, it could be seen as the only 
place from which they can be known. . .Nor do I think that 
Kristeva should be dismissed for her analysis of love as a strategy 
which allows individual subjects to negotiate the troubled psychic 
waters which she herself so graphically describes. To which we 
could add that this love does not have to be incompatible with 
politics. 12 

Indeed, one could argue that some concept of agency (of a subject of 
action) is essential to any political theory worthy of the name. 

Ethics and truth: 
psychoanalysis, semiotics and deconstruction 

Already in Revolution in Poetic Language Kristeva outlines her doubts 
about Derrida's theory of diffirance™ Seeing his grammatology essen- 
tially as a strategy drawing on Hegel's notion of negativity in order to 
construct a critique of phenomenology, Kristeva criticizes him for his 
positivizatwn of this concept of negativity, which is suddenly 'drained 
of its potential for producing breaks ... It holds itself back and appears 
as a delaying [retardement], it defers and thus becomes merely positive 

16 Introduction 

and affirmative' (Revolution, p. 141). While acknowledging that gram- 
matology unsettles and disturbs logic and the subject of logic, it 
nevertheless fails in Kristeva's view to account for breaks, changes and 
transformations in the social structure, precisely because of its funda- 
mental incapacity to account for the subject and the splitting (the coupure 
of the thetic) which produces it: 

Grammatology denounces the economy of the symbolic function 
and opens up a space that the latter cannot subsume. But in its 
desire to bar the thetic and put (logically or chronologically) 
previous energy transfers in its place, the grammatological deluge 
of meaning gives up on the subject and must remain ignorant not 
only of his functioning as social practice, but also of his chances 
for experiencing jouissance or being put to death. Neutral in the 
face of all positions, theses and structures, grammatology is, as 
a consequence, equally restrained when they break, burst or 
rupture: demonstrating disinterestedness toward (symbolic and/or 
social) structure, grammatology remains silent when faced with 
its destruction or renewal. (Revolution, p. 142) 

In this critique of what has become known as deconstruction, we can 
see Kristeva's concern to safeguard a place for the subject, albeit a 
subject-in-process, simply because it is the instance which allows us 
to account for the various heterogeneous forces (drives, pulsions) which 
disrupt language. Kristeva's concern for a linguistics of the speaking 
subject and her view of language as work or production necessarily lead 
her to question the seemingly subjectless field of signifying play 
produced by deconstruction. While fully acknowledging deconstruc- 
tion's subversive effects on transcendence, Kristeva points out that it 
also deconstructs every other thesis (material, natural, social, substantial 
or logical) and that it must do so ' in order to free itself from any 
dependence on the Logos' (Revolution, p. 143). Deconstruction thus 
falls into the trap of not being truly able to account for that which is 
heterogeneous to language and the symbolic space, precisely because 
such heterogeneous elements are negative (depending on splitting, 
scission, separation) in their mode of operation. This negativity situates 
them outside the space of the signifier which is the scene of differance. 
It is Kristeva's insistence on the reality of the drives of the imaginary 
which forces her to oppose Derrick's grammatological project, not so 

Introduction 17 

much because she disagrees with his analysis as because it doesn't go 
far enough, remaining as it does enclosed in the field of the signifier 
alone. Showing up the limited scope of a 'mere grammatology', 
semanalysis or semiotics, because of its emphasis on rejection (negativity, 
splitting), simply outflanks deconstruction: 

A heterogeneous energy discharge, whose very principle is that 
of scission and division, enters into contradiction with what has 
been traced [le trace], but produces only flashes, ruptures and 
sudden displacements, which constitute preconditions for new 
symbolic productions in which the economy of differance will be 
able to find its place as well. But there is no guarantee that rejection 
will be able to maintain the scene of differance. Its expenditure 
could pierce and abolish it, and then all symbolic becoming would 
cease, thus opening the way to 'madness'. Similarly, without 
rejection, differance would be confined within a nonrenewable, non- 
productive redundancy, a mere precious variant within the 
symbolic enclosure: contemplation adrift. (Revolution, p. 145) 

Kristeva's disparaging remark about philosophers who retain only 
the 'notion of analysis as dissolution, and write in a style similar to that 
of an outmoded avant-garde such as symbolism' ('A New Type of 
Intellectual: the Dissident', p. 300 below) alludes to this critique of 
Derrida, the implication being that if Derrida in the late 1970s writes 
like Mallarme' in 1890, his work is less subversive than some would 
have it. It also highlights Kristeva's belief that art or literature, precisely 
because it relies on the notion of the subject, is the privileged place 
of transformation or change: an abstract philosophy of the signifier can 
only repeat the formal gestures of its literary models. 

As a practising psychoanalyst, Kristeva has increasingly come to 
emphasize the notions of truth and ethics as central to the analytic pro- 
cess. Relativizing all notions of truth, deconstruction cannot account 
for the experience of truth in analysis. This is not in any way an absolute 
concept, but a truth constructed in the here and now of the analytic 
session. The analyst, who is under the ethical obligation to try to cure 
her patients, is not free to say whatever she likes, to engage in the free 
play of the signifier. Instead there is a truth in analysis: a correct 
intervention or a mistaken one. That this 'truth' may change from day 
to day and is utterly dependent on its specific context does not prevent 

18 Introduction 

it from existing. The proof of this particular form of truth lies in the 
cure: if there is no truth in analysis, there will be no cure either. 
Kristeva's notion of truth, then, emphasizes its effects in the real: it is 
a dimension of reality, not only of the signifier. 14 In this sense it draws 
not only on Freudianism but also on Marxism, with its insistence on 
praxis. This is why the first epigraph of * Psychoanalysis and the Polis' 
is the famous lines from Marx and Engels: 'Up until now philosophers 
have only interpreted the world. The point now is to change it. ' More 
than just a motto for the psychoanalytic process, these lines also 
constitute a silent rebuff to Derrida. 

The ethics of psychoanalysis, then, is to be found in the cure. For 
Kristeva, as we have seen, this means producing subjects who are free 
to construct imaginary fantasies (or works of art), to produce a new 
language, precisely because they are able to situate themselves in relation 
to the Law. In the end, however, the cure can only be effected through 
transference, and, as we have seen, transference for Kristeva means 
transference love: an imaginary process of identification with an archaic 
ideal ego (the 'father of personal prehistory'). The truth of analysis 
is therefore also the truth of love: 'When I am in love, there is 
palpitating, passionate, unique meaning, but only right here and now, 
a meaning that may be absurd in another conjunction' (Histoires d'amour, 
p. 259). 

The ethics of psychoanalysis, then, is an ethics of love. It is in this 
specific sense that Kristeva aligns herself with the great Catholic 
theologians of love, St Bernard and St Thomas 15 - for them, as for 
her, the human subject is a subject of love. Exploring their analysis 
of love in Histoires d y amour > she emphasizes the structural parallels 
between their theory of the subject and her own. In her 1985 pamphlet 
Au commencement etait V amour: psychanalyse et foi ('In the beginning 
was love: psychoanalysis and faith') she explores these parallels further, 
concluding with the fundamental atheism of psychoanalysis. Her desire 
for a new ethics, one situated outside any concept of moralism or duty, 
is also evident in her work on maternity in art ('Motherhood according 
to Giovanni Bellini', Desire in Language) or as represented in the figure 
of the Holy Virgin ('Stabat Mater' in this volume). For Kristeva, 
motherhood represents a mode of love which, like transference love, 
is at once unconditional and directed towards the final separation of 
the two subjects caught up in the amorous relationship. This is not to 
say that such ideal love is an inevitable side-effect of motherhood: 

Introduction 19 

the case histories of Kristeva's patients amply demonstrate the suffering 
caused by its absence (see 'The True-Real' and 'Freud and Love'). 
Indicating the need for further investigation of this specifically female 
access to love, Kristeva expresses her hope that it may lead to the 
discovery of an ethics based on a new psychoanalytic understanding 
of motherhood: a herethics of love ('Stabat Mater'). It is this herethical 
ethics she finds embodied in psychoanalytic practice: 'If the analyst 
doesn't love his patients he ought to give up trying to cure them' 
(Interview in Les Cahiers du GRIF, 32, 1985, p. 21). Sustained and 
produced by love, psychoanalytic practice is unthinkable without it. 


All translations from untranslated French texts are mine. Documentation in the text 
and in the notes has been limited to give only the amount needed to identify a work 
in the list of references. 

1 For fuller information see the list of her first publications in Tel quel, Theorie 
d'ensemble, p. 413. 

2 For a fuller presentation of the group's aims see 'Division de l'ensemble', in Thiorie 
d' ensemble, p. 7-10. 

3 For interesting discussions and analyses of the student movement in general and 
May 68 in particular, see A. Cockburn and R. Blackburn (eds), Student Power, 
and not least, New Left Review, 52 (Nov.-Dec. 1968), a special issue on May 68 
with the title 'Festival of the Oppressed 1 . It contains articles by Andre' Glucksmann, 
Andre" Gorz, Ernest Mandel and J.-M. Vincent as well as the editors. 

4 See also her 'Memoire, L'Infini, 1 (1983), particularly p. 52. 

5 See for instance Jennifer Stone's hostile view of Kristeva. 

6 I am quoting from the manuscript version of this article, which is forthcoming in 
print (see bibliography), p. 17. 

7 For some counter-arguments to Kristeva's points here, see the interventions from 
Jacqueline Rose, Rosalind Coward and others in the conversation printed in Desire 
(ICA Documents). 

8 See Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics for a presentation and discussion of French feminist 
theory and the idea of an icriture feminine. 

9 Manuscript, p. 23. 

10 The feminist debate around Kristeva's theories of women, femininity, sexual identity 
and language has been intense. For further reading in this field, see my chapter 
on Kristeva in Sexual/Textual Politics, and the books and articles by Brown and 
Adams, F6ral, Gallop, Jones, The Marxist-Feminist Literature Collective, 
Pajaczkowska, Rose, Spivak, Stanton, Stone and White listed in the bibliography. 

1 1 For some general introductions to Kristeva's theories in this work, see Lewis, 
Roudiez, White and Coward and Ellis. 

12 Manuscript, pp. 30-1. 

20 Introduction 

13 For an introduction to Derrida see Nonis and also Eaglet on. An advanced presen- 
tation can be found in Leitch. 

14 For a brief history of different notions of truth and of Kristeva's own position see 
'The True-Real' in this volume. 

15 The parallels between the Christian discourse of love and the psychoanalytic view 
lead her to emphasize her view of the ethics of love in the recent interview printed 
in Les Cahiers du GRIF, 32: 'For me, in a very Christian fashion, ethics merges 
with love, with is why ethics also merges with the psychoanalytic relationship' (p. 2 1). 


Works by Kristeva 

Only works referred to in this volume are listed. Essays are not listed separately if 
they have been collected in SimOotiki, Polylogue or Desire in Language. For a full 
bibliography of Kristeva's work up to and including 1982, see Elissa D. Gelfand and 
Virginia Thorndike Hules, French Feminist Criticism: women, language, literature An 
annotated bibliography (New York: Garland Publishing, 1985). 

1969 Semeiotiki. Recherches pour une semanalyse. Paris: Seuil. 

1970 Le Texte du roman. The Hague: Mouton. 

1973 'The system and the speaking subject'. Times Literary Supplement, 12 October, 
pp. 1249-52. Reprinted in Thomas A. Sebeok (ed.), The Tell-Tale Sign. A survey 
of semiotics, Lisse, Netherlands: The Peter de Ridder Press, 1975, pp. 47-55. 

1974 La Revolution du langage poitujue. Paris: Seuil. Translated as Revolution in Poetic 
Language by Margaret Waller, Introduction by Leon S. Roudiez, New York: 
Columbia University Press, 1984. 

1974 Des Chinoises. Paris: des femmes. Translated as About Chinese Women by Anita 

Barrows, London: Marion Boyars, 1977. 
1977 Polylogue. Paris: Seuil. 
1977 'Pourquoi les Etats-Unis?' (with Marcelin Heynet and Philippe Sollers), Tel Quel, 

71/73 (Autumn), pp. 3-19. Translated as 'The U.S. now: a conversation', October, 

(Fall 1978), pp. 3-17. 
1977 'Un nouveau type d'intellectuel: le dissident'. Tel Quel, 74 (Winter), pp. 3-8. 
1977 'Herethique de l'amour'. Tel Quel, (Winter), pp. 30-49. Reprinted as 'Stabat 

Mater' in Histoires d' amour (1983). 
1979 'Le vreeT. In La Folk venti. Virit£ et vraisemblance du texte psychotique, Seminaire 

dirige* par Julia Kristeva et etlite* par Jean-Michel Ribettes, Paris: Seuil, pp. 1 1-35. 
1979 'Le temps des femmes'. 34/44: Cahiers de recherche de sciences des texteset documents, 

5 (Winter), pp. 5-19. Translated as 'Women's time' by Alice Jardineand Harry 

Blake, Signs, 7, no. 1 (1981), pp. 13-35. 

1979 'II n'y a pas de maltre a langage'. Nouvelle revue de psychanalyse, 20 (Autumn), 
pp. 119-140. 

1980 Pouvoirs de Vhorreur. Paris: Seuil. Translated as Povoers of Horror by Leon S. 
Roudiez, New York: Columbia University Press, 1982. 

Introduction 21 

1980 Desire in Language: a semiotk approach to literature and art. Edited by Leon S. 
Roudiez, translated by Alice Jardine, Thomas A. Gora and Leon S. Roudiez. 
Oxford: Blackwell/New York: Columbia. 

1982 'L'abjet d'amour'. Tel Quel, 91 (Spring), pp. 17-32. 

1983 'Psychoanalysis and the polis'. Translated by Margaret Waller in W. J. T. Mitchell 
(ed.), The Politics of Interpretation, Chicago: Chicago University Press, pp. 83-98. 

1983 'Memoire', L'infini, 1, pp. 39-54. 

1983 Histoires d'amour. Paris: Denoel. 

1984 'Julia Kristeva in conversation with Rosalind Coward'. In Lisa Appignanesi (ed.), 
Desire, ICA Documents, pp. 22-7. 

1985 Au commencement etait V amour: psychanalyse etfoi. Paris: Hachette, Textes du 
XXe siecle. 

1985 'Entretien avec Julia Kristeva, realist par Francoise Collin'. Les Cahiers du GRIF, 
32, pp. 7-23. 

Other works referred to in the introduction and notes 

Barthes, Roland, 'L'ettangere'. La Qumzaine Litteraire, 94, 1-15 May (1970), pp. 19-20. 
Brown, Beverly, and Adams, Parveen, 'The feminine body and feminist polities', m/f, 

3 (1979), pp. 35-50. 
Cixous, H6lene, and Clement, Catherine, La Jeune nee. Paris: UGE, 10/18, 1975. 
Cockburn, Alexander, and Blackburn, Robin (eds), Student Power: problems, diagnosis, 

action. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969. 
Coward, Rosalind, and Ellis, John, Language and Materialism. London: Roudedge & 

Kegan Paul, 1977. 
Eagleton, Terry, Literary Theory. An introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 1983. 
Ffral, Josette, 'Antigone or the irony of the tribe'. Diacritics, Fall (1978), pp. 2-14. 

'The powers of difference' . In Hester Eisenstedn and Alke Jardine (eds), The Future 

of Difference, Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall, 1980, pp. 88-94. 
Gallop, Jane, Feminism and Psychoanalysis: the daughter's seduction. London: Macmillan, 

Jones, Ann Rosalind, 'Julia Kristeva on femininity: the limits of a semiotic polities'. 

Feminist Review, 18, Winter (1984), pp. 56-73. 
Leitch, Vincent B., Deconstructive Criticism. An advanced introduction. New York: Col- 
umbia University Press, 1983. 
Lewis, Philip E., 'Revolutionary semiotics'. Diacritics, 4, no. 3, Fall (1974), pp. 28-32. 
Marxist-Feminist Literature Collective, 'Women's writing: Jane Eyre, Shirley, Villette, 

Aurora Leigh\ Ideology and Consciousness, 1, no. 3, Spring (1978), pp. 27-48. 
Moi, Toril, Sexual/Textual Politics: feminist literary theory. London: Methuen, 1985. 
New Left Review, no. 52, Nov. -Dec. 'Festival of the oppressed'. Special Issue May 

Norris, Christopher, Deconstruction. Theory and practice. London: Methuen, 1982. 
Pajaczkowska, Claire, 'Introduction to Kristeva', m/f, 5 and 6 (1981), pp. 149-57. 
Rose, Jacqueline, 'Julia Kristeva: take two'. In Jacqueline Rose, Sexuality in the Field 
of Vision, 1986, London: NLB/Verso. Also to be published in the papers of the 

22 Introduction 

'Feminism/Theory /Politics* Conference held at the Pembroke Center for Teaching 

& Research on Women, Brown University, March 1985. 
Roudiez, Leon S., 'Introduction'. In Julia Kristeva, Desire in Language: a semiotic 

approach to literature and art, Oxford: Blackwell, 1980, pp. 1-20. 
'Introduction'. In Julia Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language, New York: Col- 
umbia University Press, 1984, pp. 1-10. 
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, 'French feminism in an international frame'. Yale French 

Studies, 62 (1981), pp. 154-84. 
Stanton, Domna C, 'Language and revolution: the Franco-American dis-Connection'. 

In Hester Eisenstein and Alice Jardine (eds), The Future of Difference, Boston, Mass. : 

G. K. Hall, 1980, pp. 73-87. 
Stone, Jennifer, 'The horrors of power: a critique of Kristeva'. In Francis Barker et 

al. (eds), The Politics of Theory. Proceedings of the Essex Conference on the Sociology 

of Literature July 1982, Colchester: University of Essex, 1983, pp. 38-48. 
Tel Quel, Theme d 'ensemble. Paris: Seuil, 1968. 
White, Allon, 'L'Eclatement du sujet': the theoretical work of Julia Kristeva. Birmingham: 

University of Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Studies, Stencilled Occasional 

Paper, no. 49 (1977). 
Wright, Elizabeth, Psychoanalytic Criticism: theory in practice. London: Methuen, 1984. 


Linguistics, Semiotics, 


The System and the Speaking Subject 

'The System and the Speaking Subject' first appeared in the Times Literary 
Supplement (12 October 1973, pp. 1249-52), and was reprinted in Thomas 
A. Sebeok (ed.), The Tell-Tale Sign. A Survey of Semiotics (Lisse, Netherlands: 
The Peter de Ridder Press, 1975). In the space of a few pages, this essay 
presents a challenging overview of the whole field of semiotics as Kristeva sees 
it. Distinguishing between 'semiology' or 'structuralism' on the one hand and 
'semiotics' or 'semanalysis' on the other, Kristeva maintains that structuralism, 
by focusing on the 'thetic' or static phase of language, posits it as a 
homogeneous structure, whereas semiotics, by studying language as a discourse 
enunciated by a speaking subject, grasps its fundamentally heterogeneous 
nature. For semanalysis language is a signifying process, not simply a static 
system. In order to establish this new science of the sign, Kristeva draws heavily 
on Hegel, Marx and Freud. Linguistic practice, as she sees it, is at once system 
and transgression (negativity), a product of both the 'drive-governed basis of 
sound production' and the social space in which the enunciation takes place. 

Insisting as it does on the heterogeneity of language, semiotics is caught in 
a paradox: being itself a metalanguage (language which speaks about language) 
it cannot but homogenize its object in its own discourse. In this sense, then, 
semiotics is structurally unable to practise what it preaches. For Kristeva, 
however, the paradoxical nature of the semiotic enterprise does not lead to 
paralysis but to renewed creativity, since the semiotician caught in this paradox 
is forced always to analyse her own discursive position, and thus to renew her 
connection with the heterogeneous forces of language which, according to 
Kristeva, is what makes language a productive structure in the first place. 

In many ways this essay summarizes the main themes of Kristeva's major 
linguistic work, La Revolution du langage poetique (1974), translated by Margaret 
Waller as Revolution in Poetic Language (1984). In its preoccupation with the 
political or ethical nature of semanalysis as a mode of thought which subverts 
established beliefs in authority and order, 'The System and the Speaking 
Subject' should be read in the context of 'The Ethics of Linguistics', published 
in Polylogue (1977) and translated in Desire in Language (1980). Some of the 

The System and the Speaking Subject 25 

central concepts left undefined in 'The System and the Speaking Subject' 
('thetic', 'genotext', 'phenotext') are developed and defined in the excerpts 
from Revolution which appear in this volume as chapter 5. (See particularly 
the chapters entitled 'The Thetic: Rupture and/or Boundary' and 'Genotext 
and Phenotext'.) 

The System and the Speaking Subject 

However great the diversity, the irregularity, the disparity even of 
current research in semiotics, it is possible to speak of a specifically 
semiotic discovery. What semiotics has discovered in studying 'ideologies' 
(myths, rituals, moral codes, arts, etc.) as sign-systems is that the law 
governing, or, if one prefers, the major constraint affecting any social 
practice lies in the fact that it signifies; i.e., that it is articulated like 
a language. Every social practice, as well as being the object of external 
(economic, political, etc.) determinants, is also determined by a set of 
signifying rules, by virtue of the fact that there is present an order of 
language; that this language has a double articulation (signifier/signified); 
that this duality stands in an arbitrary relation to the referent; and that 
all social functioning is marked by the split between referent and 
symbolic and by the shift from signified to signifier coextensive with it. 

One may say, then, that what semiotics had discovered is the fact 
that there is a general social law, that this law is the symbolic dimen- 
sion which is given in language and that every social practice offers a 
specific expression of that law. 

A discovery of this order cuts short the speculations characteristic 
of idealism, which throughout its history has claimed the domain of 
meaning as subordinate to itself, refusing to allow it both external deter- 
mination and internal adjustment. But it is no less unkind to vulgar 
sociologism or those mechanistic assumptions which, under the ill- 
defined general term of 'ideology', define superstructures which are 
without exception externally determined. The semiological approach 
identifies itself, from Hjelmslev on, as an anti-humanism which out- 
modes those debates - still going on even now - between philosophers, 
where one side argues for a transcendence with an immanent 'human' 
causality while the other argues for an 'ideology' whose cause is external 
and therefore transcendent; but where neither shows any awareness of 
the linguistic and, at a more general level, semiotic logic of the sociality 

26 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

in which the (speaking, historical) subject is embedded. 

And yet semiotics, by its attempts to set itself up as a theory of 
practices using language as its model, restricts the value of its discovery 
to the field of practices which do no more than subserve the principle 
of social cohesions, of the social contract. In other words, in so far as 
linguistics has established itself as the science of an object ('language', 
'speech' or 'discourse') so obedient to the necessity for social com- 
munication as to be inseparable from sociality, any semiotics which 
adopts this linguistic model can speak only of those social practices (or 
those aspects of social practices) which subserve such social exchange: 
a semiotics that records the systematic, systematizing or informational 
aspect of signifying practices. 

It is not difficult to see why its strong point should be the study of 
the rules of kinship and myths as examples of community knowledge. 
Nor is it difficult to see that it cannot simply go on following the 
linguistic model alone, or even the principle of systematicity if it aims 
also at tackling signifying practices which, although they do subserve 
social communications, are at the same time the privileged areas where 
this is put to non-utilitarian use, the areas of transgression and pleasure: 
one thinks of the specificity of 'art', of ritual, of certain aspects of 
myths, etc. 

What is being called in question here, where the limitations of a 
familiar conception of semiotics are concerned, is not merely the 
theoretical presupposition on which that conception is based and which 
biases it towards discovering in every kind of field analogues of the 
system of language. Such rigidity has merely served to throw into relief 
a shortcoming of linguistics itself: established as a science in as much 
as it focuses on language as a social code, the science of linguistics has 
no way of apprehending anything in language which belongs not with 
the social contract but with play, pleasure or desire (or, if it does attempt 
to take account of these, it is forced to infringe its epistemological purity 
and call itself by such names as stylistics, rhetoric, poetics: aleatory 
forms of discourse which have no empirical status). 

Thus we reach a crucial point in semiotic research: of its possible 
deployment as a critique of its own presuppositions. Semiotics must 
not be allowed to be a mere application to signifying practices of the 
linguistic model - or any other model, for that matter. Its raison d*etre, 
if it is to have one, must consist in its identifying the systematic constraint 
within each signifying practice (using for that purpose borrowed or 

The System and the Speaking Subject 27 

original 'models') but above all in going beyond that to specifying just 
what, within the practice, falls outside the system and characterizes the 
specificity of the practice as such. 

One phase of semiology is now over: that which runs from Saussure 
and Peirce to the Prague School and structuralism, and has made possible 
the systematic description of the social and/or symbolic constraint within 
each signifying practice. To criticize this phase for its 'ideological bias' 
- whether phenomenological or more specifically phonological or 
linguistic - without recognizing the truth it has contributed by revealing 
and characterizing the immanent causality and/or the presence of a social- 
systematic constraint in each social functioning, leads to a rejection of 
the symbolic and/or social thesis (in Husserl's sense of the word) indis- 
pensable to every practice. This rejection is shared both by idealist 
philosophy, with its neglect of the historical socializing role of the 
symbolic, and by the various sociological dogmatisms, which suppress 
the specificity of the symbolic and its logic in their anxiety to reduce 
them to an 'external' determinant. 

In my view, a critique of this 'semiology of systems' and of its 
phenomenological foundations is possible only if it starts from a theory 
of meaning which must necessarily be a theory of the speaking subject. 
It is common knowledge that the linguistic revival which goes by the 
name of Generative Grammar - whatever its variants and mutations 
- is based on the rehabilitation of the Cartesian conception of language 
as an act carried out by a subject. On close inspection, as certain linguists 
(from Jakobson to Kuroda) have shown in recent years, this 'speaking 
subject' turns out in fact to be that transcendental ego which, in Husserl's 
view, underlies any and every predicative synthesis, if we 'put in brackets' 
logical or linguistic externality. Generative Grammar, based firmly on 
this subject, not only expresses the truth of language which structuralism 
describes as a system - namely that it is the act of an ego which has 
momentarily broken off its connection with that externality, which may 
be social, natural or unconscious - but creates for itself the opportunity 
of describing, better than its predecessors, the logic of this thetic act, 
starting out from an infinity of predication which each national language 
subjects to strict systems of rules. Yet this transcendental subject is 
not the essential concern of the semiological revival, and if it bases itself 
on the conception of language proper to Generative Grammer, semiology 
will not get beyond the reduction - still commonly characteristic of it 
- of signifying practices to their systematic aspect. 

28 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

In respect of the subject and of signifying, it is the Freudian revolution 
which seems to me to have achieved the definitive displacement of the 
Western episteme from its presumed centrality. But although the effects 
of that revolution have been superbly and authoritatively worked out 
in the writings of Jacques Lacan in France, or, in a rather different 
way, in the English anti-psychiatry of R. D. Laing and David Cooper, 
it has by no means reached far enough yet to affect the semiotic concep- 
tion of language and of practices. The theory of meaning now stands 
at a crossroad: either it will remain an attempt at formalizing meaning- 
systems by increasing sophistication of the logico-mathematical tools 
which enable it to formulate models on the basis of a conception (already 
rather dated) of meaning as the act of a transcendental ego, cut off from 
its body, its unconscious and also its history; or else it will attune itself 
to the theory of the speaking subject as a divided subject (conscious/ 
unconscious) and go on to attempt to specify the types of operation 
characteristic of the two sides of this split, thereby exposing them to 
those forces extraneous to the logic of the systematic; exposing them, 
that is to say, on the one hand, to bio-physiological processes (themselves 
already inescapably part of signifying processes, what Freud labelled 
'drives'); and, on the other hand, to social constraints (family structures, 
modes of production, etc.). 

In following this latter path, semiology, or, as I have suggested calling 
it, semanalysis, conceives of meaning not as a sign-system but as a 
signifying process. Within this process one might see the release and 
subsequent articulation of the drives as constrained by the social code 
yet not reducible to the language system as a genotext and the signifying 
system as it presents itself to phenomenological intuition as a phenotext; 
describable in terms of structure, or of competence/performance, or 
according to other models. The presence of the genotext within the 
phenotext is indicated by what I have called a semiotic disposition. In the 
case, for example, of a signifying practice such as 'poetic language', the 
semiotic disposition will be the various deviations from the grammatical 
rules of the language: articulatory effects which shift the phonemative 
system back towards its articulatory, phonetic base and consequently 
towards the drive-governed bases of sound-production; the over- 
determination of a lexeme by multiple meanings which it does not carry 
in ordinary usage but which accrue to it as a result of its occurrence 
in other texts; syntactic irregularities such as ellipses, non-recoverable 
deletions, indefinite embeddings, etc,; the replacement of the relationship 

The System and the Speaking Subject 29 

between the protagonists of any enunciation as they function in a locutory 
act - see here the work of J. L. Austin and John Searle - by a system 
of relations based on fantasy; and so forth. 

These variations may be partly described by way of what are called 
the primary processes (displacement, condensation - or metonymy, 
metaphor), transversal to the logico-symbolic processes that function 
in the predicative synthesis towards establishing the language system. 
They had already been discovered by the structuralists, following Freud, 
at the 'lower', phonological, level of the linguistic synthesis. To them 
must be added the compulsion to repetition, but also 'operations' 
characteristic of topologies and capable of establishing Junctions between 
the signifying code and the fragmented body of the speaking subject 
as well as the bodies of his familial and social partners. All functions 
which suppose a frontier (in this case the fissure created by the act of 
naming and the logico-linguistic synthesis which it sets off) and the trans- 
gression of that frontier (the sudden appearance of new signifying chains) 
are relevant to any account of signifying practice, where practice is taken 
as meaning the acceptance of a symbolic law together with the trans- 
gression of that law for the purpose of renovating it. 

The moment of transgression is the key moment in practice: we can 
speak of practice wherever there is a transgression of systematicity, i.e., 
a transgression of the unity proper to the transcendental ego. The subject 
of the practice cannot be the transcendental subject, who lacks the shift, 
the split in logical unity brought about by language which separates 
out, within the signifying body, the symbolic order from the workings 
of the libido (this last revealing itself by the semiotic disposition). 
Identifying the semiotic disposition means in fact identifying the shift 
in the speaking subject, his capacity for renewing the order in which 
he is inescapably caught up; and that capacity is, for the subject, the 
capacity for enjoyment. 

It must, however, be remembered that although it can be described 
in terms of operations and concepts, this logic of shifts, splits and the 
infinitization of the symbolic limit leads us towards operations hetero- 
geneous to meaning and its system. By that I mean that these 'operations' 
are pre-meaning and pre-sign (or trans-meaning, trans-sign), and that they 
bring us back to processes of division in the living matter of an organism 
subject to biological constraints as well as social norms. Here it seems 
indispensable that Melanie Klein's theory of drives should be refined 
and extended, together with the psycholinguistic study of the acquisition 

30 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

of language (provided that this study is conceived as something more 
than the mere reiteration of what is amply demonstrated in and by the 
linguistic system of the transcendental ego). 

The point is not to replace the semiotics of signifying systems by 
considerations on the biological code appropriate to the nature of those 
employing them - a tautological exercise, after all, since the biological 
code has been modelled on the language system. It is rather to postulate 
the heterogeneity of biological operations in respect of signifying opera- 
tions, and to study the dialectics of the former (that is, the fact that, 
though invariably subject to the signifying and/or social codes, they 
infringe the code in the direction of allowing the subject to get pleasure 
from it, renew it, even endanger it; where, that is, the processes are 
not blocked by him in repression or 'mental illness'). 

But since it is itself a metalanguage, semiotics can do no more than 
postulate this heterogeneity: as soon as it speaks about it, it homogenizes 
the phenomenon, links it with a system, loses hold of it. Its specificity 
can be preserved only in the signifying practices which set off the 
heterogeneity at issue: thus poetic language making free with the 
language code; music, dancing, painting, reordering the psychic drives 
which have not been harnessed by the dominant symbolization systems 
and thus renewing their own tradition; and (in a different mode) 
experiences with drugs - all seek out and make use of this heterogeneity 
and the ensuing fracture of a symbolic code which can no longer 'hold* 
its (speaking) subjects. 

But if semiotics thus openly recognizes its inability to apprehend the 
heterogeneity of the signifying process other than by reducing it to a 
systematicity, does it thereby declare its own intellectual bankruptcy? 
Everything in current research that is solid and intellectually adequate 
impels those pursuing it to stress the limits of their own metalanguage 
in relation to the signifying process; their own metalanguage can 
apprehend only that part of the signifying process belonging to the 
domain of the general metalanguage to which their own efforts are 
tributary; the (vast) remainder has had, historically, to find a home in 
religion (notoriously, if more or less marginally, associated with semiotic 
reflection since the Stoics), moving up through medieval theories of 
the modi significandi, Leibniz's Art of Combinations, to phenomenology 
or positivism. It is only now, and only on the basis of a theory of the 
speaking subject as subject of a heterogeneous process, that semiotics 
can show that what lies outside its metalinguistic mode of operation - the 

The System and the Speaking Subject 31 

'remainder', the 'waste' - is what, in the process of the speaking subject, 
represents the moment in which it is set in action, put on trial, put 
to death: a heterogeneity with respect to system, operating within the 
practice and one which is liable, if not seen for what it is, to be reified 
into a transcendence. 

We can now grasp all the ambiguities of semanalysis: on the one hand 
it demystifies the logic at work in the elaboration of every transcendental 
reduction and, for this purpose, requires the study of each signifying 
system as a practice. Thus intent on revealing the negativity which Hegel 
had seen at work beneath all rationality but which, by a masterly stroke, 
he subordinated to absolute knowledge, semanalysis can be thought of 
as the direct successor of the dialectical method; but the dialectic it 
continues will be one which will at last be genuinely materialist since 
it recognizes the materiality - the heterogeneity - of that negativity whose 
concrete base Hegel was unable to see and which mechanistic Marxists 
have reduced to a merely economic externality. Had not C. S. Peirce 
already been drawn by what dialectics seemed to promise, in writing 
'my philosophy resuscitates Hegel, though in a strange costume'? To 
rediscover practice by way of the system, by rehabilitating what is 
heterogeneous to the system of meaning and what calls in question the 
transcendental subject: these, it seems to me, are the stakes for which 
semiotics is now playing. 

And yet, by setting about this task, it brings the precarious or the 
enjoyable aspects of a practice into a system which, by this very fact, 
at once takes up its place within the dominant social code. Being, because 
of its explanatory metalinguistic force, an agent of social cohesion, 
semiotics contributes to the formation of that reassuring image which 
every society offers itself when it understands everything, down to and 
including the practices which voluntarily expend it. 

If, in spite of everything, the semiotic venture can be justified, it is 
on the grounds of historical necessity. The present mutations of 
capitalism, the political and economic reawakening of ancient civiliza- 
tions (India, China) have thrown into crisis the symbolic systems 
enclosed in which the Western subject, officially defined as a transcen- 
dental subject, has for two thousand years lived out its lifespan. Marxist 
theory, still a powerful tool for understanding the economic determinants 
of social relations, has little to say on the crisis in question: it is not 
a theory of meaning or of the subject. There is no subject in the economic 
rationality of Marxism; there is in Marxist revolution, but the 'founding 

32 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

fathers' have left us no thoughts about it, while the academic Marxologists 
of today can hardly wait to get rid both of meaning and of the subject 
in the name of some 'objective' process; or else they will fudge up a 
theory of the subject which turns out to be the subject of Hegel's view 
of Right, that is, the subject of bourgeois Right, and then invite us to 
conceive every signifying practice in its image. A far cry from revolution, 
from desire, and even from the Hegelian negative! Mechanistic Marxism 
is still paying its dues to Feuerbach and his humanistic standing of the 
dialectic on its head. 

If, then, a gap can be seen in dialectical materialism in respect of 
signifying practices and their subject, semiotics may be the locus from 
which an attempt can be mounted to work out a new conception: 
semiotics, avoiding the twin pitfalls of imprisonment within the 
mechanism of psychoanalytic transference and of formalist description, 
can establish the heterogeneous logic of signifying practices, and locate 
them, finally and by way of their subject, in the historically determined 
relations of production. Semiotics can lead to a historical typology of 
signifying practices by the mere fact of recognizing the specific status 
within them of the speaking subject. In this way we arrive at the 
possibility of a new perspective on history, perhaps a new principle for 
dividing up historical time, since signifying temporality is not coextensive 
with that of the modes of production. 

As 'classical' semiotics was already aware, discourse received its 
meaning from the person(s) to whom it is addressed. The semiotics of 
signifying practices is addressed to all those who, committed to a practice 
of challenge, innovation or personal experiment, are frequently tempted 
to abandon their discourse as a way of communicating the logic of that 
practice, since the dominant forms of discourse (from positivist grammar 
to sociologism) have no room for it, and to go into voluntary exile in 
what Mallarme' called an 'indicible qui ment', for the ultimate benefit 
of a practice that shall remain silent. 

The semiology of signifying practices, by contrast, is ready to give 
a hearing to any or all of those efforts which, ever since the elaboration 
of a new position for the speaking subject, have been renewing and 
reshaping the status of meaning within social exchanges to a point where 
the very order of language is being renewed: Joyce, Burroughs, Sollers. 

This is a moral gesture, inspired by a concern to make intelligible, 
and therefore socializable, what rocks the foundations of sociality. In 
this respect semanalysis carries on the semiotic discovery of which we 

The System and the Speaking Subject 33 

spoke at the outset: it places itself at the service of the social law which 
requires systematization, communication, exchange. But if it is to do 
this, it must inevitably respect a further, more recent requirement - 
and one which neutralizes the phantom of 'pure science': the subject 
of the semiouc metalanguage must, however briefly, call himself in 
question, must emerge from the protective shell of a transcendental ego 
within a logical system, and so restore his connection with that negativity 
- drive-governed, but also social, political and historical - which rends 
and renews the social code. 

Word, Dialogue and Novel 

Written in 1966, shortly after Kristeva's arrival in France, this presentation 
and development of Mikhail Bakhtin's central ideas was published in Semewtiki 
(1969) and translated in Desire in Language (1980). With her compatriot, 
Tzvdtan Todorov, Kristeva was among the first to introduce Bakhtin's work 
to a Western audience. I have chosen to reprint the essay here both because 
of its intrinsic interest as a presentation of the great Russian theorist, and 
because it demonstrates how Kristeva's own linguistic and psycho-linguistic 
work in the late 1960s and early 1970s can be said to be produced as a result 
of her active dialogue with Bakhtin's texts. 

'Word, Dialogue and Novel' is in many ways a divided text, uneasily poised 
on an unstable borderline between traditional 'high' structuralism with its yearn- 
ings for 'scientific' objectivity (as revealed by Kristeva's use of mathematics 
and set theory to illustrate her points) and a remarkably early form of 'post- 
structuralism' or the desire to show how the pristine structuralist categories 
always break down under the pressure of the other side of language: the 
irreverent, mocking and subversive tradition of carnival and Menippean satire 
as described by Bakhtdn. In this context Kristeva's insistence on the importance 
of the speaking subject as the principal object for linguistic analysis would 
seem to have its roots in her own reading of Bakhtinian 'dialogism' as an open- 
ended play between the text of the subject and the text of the addressee, an 
analysis which also gives rise to the Kristevan concept of 'intertextuality'. 
This fundamental essay also demonstrates how Bakhtin provides the starting- 
point for Kristeva's own work on modernist discourse in Revolution in Poetic 
Language. Working from Bakhtinian terms such as 'dialogism' and 
'carnivalism', Kristeva turns them into allusions to the kind of textual play 
she was later to analyse through concepts such as 'the semiotic', 'the symbolic' 
and the 'chora' (see the excerpts from Revolution in this book). It is therefore 
not surprising to discover that her reading of carnivalism as a space where 
texts meet, contradict and relativize each other through extensive use of repeti- 
tion, illogical constructions and non-exclusive opposition is illustrated not only 
with references to Rabelais or Swift (as in Bakhtin's own work), but also with 

Wordy Dialogue and Novel 35 

allusions to authors such as Lautreamont, Joyce, Kafka, Bataille and Sollers, 
which were all to provide important examples of the practice of writing analysed 
not only in the Revolution, but also, from a different perspective, in Powers 
of Horror (1982). Testifying to her early interest in the aspects of language 
and the psyche which escape the dominant tradition of Aristotelian mono- 
logism, 'Word, Dialogue and Novel' follows Bakhtin in insisting on the 
subversive political effects of such language, and thus also comes to prefigure 
Kristeva's later analysis of the politics of marginality. 

Word, Dialogue and Novel 

If the efficacy of scientific approach in 'human' sciences has always 
been challenged, it is all the more striking that such a challenge should 
for the first time be issued on the very level of the structures being 
studied - structures supposedly answerable to a logic other than scien- 
tific. 1 What would be involved is the logic of language (and all the 
more so, of poetic language) that 'writing' has had the virtue of bring- 
ing to light. I have in mind that particular literary practice in which 
the elaboration of poetic meaning emerges as tangible, dynamic gram. 2 
Confronted with this situation, then, literary semiotics can either abstain 
and remain silent, or persist in its efforts to elaborate a model that would 
be isomorphic to this other logic; that is, isomorphic to the elaboration 
of poetic meaning, a concern of primary importance to contemporary 

Russian Formalism, in which contemporary structural analysis claims 
to have its source, was itself faced with identical alternatives when 
reasons beyond literature and science halted its endeavors. Research 
was none the less carried on, recently coming to light in the work of 
Mikhail Bakhtin. His work represents one of that movement's most 
remarkable accomplishments, as well as one of the most powerful 
attempts to transcend its limitation. Bakhtin shuns the linguist's 
technical rigour, wielding an impulsive and at times even prophetic pen, 
while he takes on the fundamental problems presently confronting a 
structural analysis of narrative; this alone would give currency to essays 
written over forty years ago. Writer as well as 'scholar', Bakhtin was 
one of the first to replace the static hewing out of texts with a model 
where literary structure does not simply exist but is generated in relation 

36 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

to another structure. What allows a dynamic dimension to structuralism 
is his conception of the 'literary word' as an intersection of textual surfaces 
rather than a point (a fixed meaning), as a dialogue among several 
writings: that of the. writer, the. addressee (or the character) and the 
contemporary or earlier cultural context. 

By-introducing the status of the word as a minimal structural unit, 
Bakhtin situates the text within history and society, which are then seen 
as texts read by the writer, and into which he inserts himself by rewriting 
them. Diachrony is transformed into synchrony, and in light of this trans- 
formation, linear history appears as abstraction. The only way a writer can 
participate in history is by transgressing this abstraction through a process 
of reading- writing; that is, through the practice of a signifying structure 
in relation or opposition to another structure. History and morality are 
written and read within the infrastructure of texts. The poetic word, poly- 
valent and multi-determined, adheres to a logic exceeding that of codified 
discourse and fully comes into being only in the margins of recognized 
culture. Bakhtin was the first to study this logic, and he looked for its roots 
in carnival. Carnivalesq ue discourse breaks through the laws of a lang uage 
censored by grammar a nd semantics and, at the same time, is a social an d 
political protest. There is no equivalence, but rather, identity between 
challenging official linguistic codes and challenging official law. 

The word within the space of texts 

Defining the specific status of the word as signifier for different modes 
of (literary) intellection within different genres or texts put poetic 
analysis at the sensitive centre of contemporary 'human' sciences - at 
the intersection of language (the true practice of thought) 3 with space 
(the volume within which signification, through a joining of differences, 
articulates itself). To investigate the status of the word is to study 
its articulations (as semic complex) with other words in the sentence, 
and then to look for the same functions or relationships at the articu- 
lator level of larger sequences. Confronted with this spatial conception 
of language's poetic operation, we must first define the three dimen- 
sions of textual space where various semic sets and poetic sequences 
function. These three dimensions or coordinates of dialogue are writing 
subject, addressee and exterior texts. The word's status is thus defined 
horizontally (the word in the text belongs to both writing subject 
and addressee) as well as vertically (the word in the text is oriented 

Wordy Dialogue and Novel 37 

towards an anterior or synchronic literary corpus). 4 

The addressee, however, is included within a book's discursive 
universe only as discourse itself. He thus fuses with this other discourse, 
this other book, in relation to which the writer has written his own text. 
Hence horizontal axis (subject-addressee) and vertical axis (text-context) 
coincide, bringing to light an important fact: each word (text) is an 
intersection of word (texts) where at least one other word (text) can 
be read. In Bakhtin's work, these two axes, which he calls dialogue and 
ambivalence, are not clearly distinguished. Yet, what appears as a lack 
of rigour is in fact an insight first introduced into literary theory by 
Bakhtin: any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is 
the absorption and transformation of another. The notion of inter- 
textuality 5 replaces that of intersubjectivity, and poetic language is read 
as at least double. 

The word as minimal textual unit thus turns out to occupy the status 
of mediator, linking structural models to cultural (historical) environ- 
ment, as well as that of regulator, controlling mutations from diachrony 
to synchrony, i.e., to literary structure. The word is spatialized: through 
the very notion of status, it functions in three dimensions (subject- 
addressee-context) as a set of dialogical, semic elements or as a set of 
ambivalent elements. Consequently the task of literary semiotics is to 
discover other formalisms corresponding to different modalities of word- 
joining (sequences) within the dialogical space of texts. 

Any description of a word's specific operation within different literary 
genres or texts thus requires a translinguistic procedure. First, we must 
think of literary genres as imperfect semiological systems 'signifying 
beneath the surface of language but never without it': and secondly, 
discover relations among larger narrative units such as sentences, 
questions-and-answers, dialogues, etc., not necessarily on the basis of 
linguistic models - justified by the principle of semantic expansion. 
We could thus posit and demonstrate the hypothesis that any evolution 
of literary genres is an unconscious exteriorization of linguistic structures at 
their different levels. The novel in particular exteriorizes linguistic 
dialogue. 6 

Word and dialogue 

Russian Formalists were engrossed with the idea of 'linguistic dialogue'. 
They insisted on the dialogical character of linguistic communication 7 

38 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

and considered the monologue, the 'embryonic form' of common 
language, 8 as subsequent to dialogue. Some of them distinguished 
between monological discourse (as 'equivalent to a psychic state') 9 and 
narrative (as 'artistic imitation of monological discourse'). 10 Boris 
Eikhenbaum's famous study of Gogol's The Overcoat is based on such 
premises. Eikhenbaum notes that Gogol's text actively refers to an oral 
form of narration and to its linguistic characteristics (intonation, syntactic 
construction of oral discourse, pertinent vocabulary, and so on). He 
thus sets up two modes of narration, indirect and direct, studying the 
relationship between the two. Yet he seems to be unaware that before 
referring to an oral discourse, the writer of the narrative usually refers 
to the discourse of an other whose oral discourse is only secondary (since 
the other is the carrier of oral discourse). 11 

For Bakhtin, the dialogue-monologue distinction has a much 
larger significance than the concrete meaning accorded it by the 
Russian Formalists. It does not correspond to the direct/indirect 
(monologue/dialogue) distinction in narratives or plays. For Bakhtin, 
dialogue can be monological, and what is called monologue can be 
dialogical. With him, such terms refer to a linguistic infrastructure that 
must be studied through a semiotics of literary texts. This semiotics 
cannot be based on either linguistic methods or logical givens, but rather, 
must be elaborated from the point where they leave off. 

Linguistics studies 'language' and its specific logic in its commonality 
Cobshchnost*) as that factor which makes dialogical intercourse 
possible, but it consistently refrains from studying those dialogical 
relationships themselves. ..Dialogical relationships are not re- 
ducible to logical or concrete semantic relationships, which are 
in and of themselves devoid of any dialogical aspect. . . Dialogical 
relationships are totally impossible without logical and concrete 
semantic relationships, but they are not reducible to them; they 
have their own specificity. 12 

While insisting on the difference between dialogical relationships and 
specifically linguistic ones, Bakhtin emphasizes that those structuring 
a narrative (for example, writer/character, to which we would add subject 
of enunciation/subject of utterance) are possible because dialogism is 
inherent in language itself. Without explaining exactly what makes up 
this double aspect of language, he none the less insists that 'dialogue 

Word, Dialogue and Novel 39 

is the only sphere possible for the life of language'. Today we can detect 
analogical relationships on several levels of language: first, within the 
combinative dyad, langue/parole; and secondly, within the systems either 
of langue (as collective, monological contracts as well as systems of 
correlative value actualized in dialogue with the other) or of parole (as 
essentially 'combinative', not pure creation, but individual formation 
based on the exchange of signs). 

On still another level (which could be compared to the novel's 
ambivalent space), this 'double character of language' has even been 
demonstrated as syntagmatic (made manifest through extension, pre- 
sence and metonymy) and systematic (manifested through association, 
absence and metaphor). It would be important to analyse linguistically 
the analogical exchanges between these two axes of language as basis 
of the novel's ambivalence. We should also note Jakobson's double 
structures and their overlappings within the code/message relation- 
ship, 13 which help to clarify Bakhtin's notion of dialogism as inherent 
in language. 

Bakhtin foreshadows what Emile Benveniste has in mind when he 
speaks about discourse, that is 'language appropriated by the individual 
as a practice'. As Bakhtin himself writes, 'In order for analogical rela- 
tionships to arise among [logical or concrete semantic relationships], 
they must clothe themselves in the word, become utterances, and become 
the positions of various subjects, expressed in a word.' 14 Bakhtin, 
however, born of a revolutionary Russia that was preoccupied with social 
problems, does not see dialogue only as language assumed by a subject; 
he sees it, rather, as a writing where one reads the other (with no allusion 
to Freud). Bakhtinian dialogism identifies writing as both subjectivity 
and communication, or better, as intertextuality. Confronted with this 
dialogism, the notion of a 'person-subject of writing' becomes blurred, 
yielding to that of 'ambivalence of writing'. 


The term 'ambivalence' implies the insertion of history (society) into 
a text and of this text into history; for the writer, they are one and the 
same. When he speaks of 'two paths merging within the narrative', 
Bakhtin considers writing as a reading of the anterior literary corpus 
and the text as an absorption of and a reply to another text. He studies 
the polyphonic novel as an absorption of the carnival and the monological 

40 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

novel as a stifling of this literary structure, which he calls 'Menippean' 
because of its dialogism. In this perspective, a text cannot be grasped 
through linguistics alone. Bakhtin postulates the necessity for what he 
calls a translinguistic science, which, developed on the basis of language's 
dialogism, would enable us to understand intertextual relationships; 
relationships that the nineteenth century labelled 'social value' or 
literature's moral 'message'. Lautrgamont wanted to write so that he 
could submit himself to a high morality. Within his practice, this morality 
is actualized as textual ambivalence: The Songs ofMaldoror and the Poems 
are a constant dialogue with the preceding literary corpus, a perpetual 
challenge of past writing. Dialogue and ambivalence are borne out as 
the only approach that permits the writer to enter history by espousing 
an ambivalent ethics: negation as affirmation. 

Dialogue and ambivalence lead me to conclude that, within the interior 
space of the text as well as within the space of texts, poetic language 
is a 'double'. Saussure's poetic paragram ('Anagrams') extends from 
zero to two: the unit 'one' (definition, 'truth') does not exist in this field. 
Consequently, the notions of definition, determination, the sign ' = ' 
and the very concept of sign, which presuppose a vertical (hierarchical) 
division between signifier and signified, cannot be applied to poetic 
language - by defining an infinity of pairings and combinations. 

The notion of sign (Sr-Sd) is a product of scientific abstraction 
(identity-substance-cause-goal as structure of the Indo-European 
sentence), designating a vertically and hierarchically linear division. The 
notion of double, the result of thinking over poetic (not scientific) 
language, denotes 'spatialization' and correlation of the literary 
(linguistic) sequence. This implies that the minimal unit of poetic 
language is at least double, not in the sense of the signifier/signified dyad, 
but rather, in terms of one and other. It suggests that poetic language 
functions as a tabular model, where each 'unit' (this word can no longer 
be used without quotation marks, since every unit is double) acts as 
a multi-determined peak. The double would be the minimal sequence 
of a paragrammatic semiotics to be worked out starting from the work 
of Saussure (in the 'Anagrams') and Bakhtin. 

Instead of carrying these thoughts to their conclusion we shall concen- 
trate here on one of their consequences: the inability of any logical system 
based on a zero-one sequence (true-false, nothingness-notation) to 
account for the operation of poetic language. 

Scientific procedures are indeed based upon a logical approach, itself 

Word, Dialogue and Novel 41 

founded on the Greek (Indo-European) sentence. Such a sentence begins 
as subject-predicate and grows by identification, determination and 
causality. Modern logic from Gottlob Frege and Giuseppe Peano to Jan 
Lukasiewicz, Robert Ackermann and Alonzo Church evolves out of a 
0-1 sequence; George Boole, who begins with set theory, produces 
formulae that are more isomorphic with language - all of these are 
ineffective within the realm of poetic language, where 1 is not a limit. 

It is therefore impossible to formalize poetic language according to 
existing logical (scientific) procedures without distorting it. A literary 
semiotics must be developed on the basis of a poetic logic where the con- 
cept of the power of the continuum would embody the 0-2 interval, a 
continuity where denotes and 1 is implicitly transgressed. 

Within this 'power of the continuum' from to a specifically poetic 
double, the linguistic, psychic and social 'prohibition' is 1 (God, Law, 
Definition). The only linguistic practice to 'escape' this prohibition is 
poetic discourse. It is no accident that the shortcomings of Aristotelian 
logic when applied to language were pointed out by, on the one hand, 
twentieth-century Chinese philosopher Chang Tung- Sun (the product 
of a different linguistic heritage - ideograms - where, in place of God, 
there extends the Yin- Yang 'dialogue') and, on the other, Bakhtin (who 
attempted to go beyond the Formalists through a dynamic theoriza- 
tion accomplished in revolutionary society). With Bakhtin, who assimi- 
lates narrative discourse into epic discourse, narrative is a prohibition, 
a monologism, a subordination of the code to 1 , to God. Hence, the epic 
is religious and theological; all 'realist' narrative obeying 0-1 logic is 
dogmatic. The realist novel, which Bakhtin calls monological (Tolstoy), 
tends to evolve within this space. Realist description, definition of 
'personality', 'character' creation and 'subject' development - all are 
descriptive narrative elements belonging to the 0-1 interval and are thus 
monological. The only discourse integrally to achieve the 0-2 poetic logic 
is that of the carnival. By adopting a dream logic, it transgresses rules 
of linguistic code and social morality as well. 

In fact, this 'transgression' of linguistic, logical and social codes within 
the carnivalesque only exists and succeeds, of course, because it accepts 
another law. Dialogism is not 'freedom to say everything 1 , it is a dramatic 
banter' (Lautreamont), an other imperative than that of 0. We should 
particularly emphasize this specificity of dialogue as transgression giving 
itself a law so as radically and categorically to distinguish it from the 
pseudo-transgression evident in a certain modern 'erotic' and parodic 

42 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

literature. The latter, seeing itself as 'libertine' and 'relativizing', 
operates according to a principle of law anticipating its own transgres- 
sion. It thus compensates for monologism, does not displace the 0-1 
interval nor has anything to do with the architectonics of dialogism, 
which implies a categorical tearing from the norm and a relationship 
of non-exclusive opposites. 

The novel incorporating carnivalesque structure is called polyphonic. 
Bakhtin's examples include Rabelais, Swift and Dostoevsky. We might 
also add the 'modern' novel of the twentieth century - Joyce, Proust, 
Kafka - while specifying that the modern polyphonic novel, although 
analogous in its status, where monologism is concerned, to dialogical 
novels of the past, is clearly marked off from them. A break occurred 
at the end of the nineteenth century: while dialogue in Rabelais, Swift 
and Dostoevsky remains at a representative, fictitious level, our century's 
polyphonic novel becomes 'unreadable' (Joyce) and interior to language 
(Proust, Kafka). Beginning with this break - not only literary but also 
social, political and philosophical in nature - the problem of inter- 
textuality (intertextual dialogue) appears as such. Bakhtin's theory itself 
(as well as that of Saussure's 'Anagrams') can be traced historically to 
this break: he was able to discover textual dialogism in the writings 
of Mayakovsky, Khlebnikov and Andrei Bely, to mention only a few 
of the Revolution's writers who made the outstanding imprints of this 
scriptural break. Bakhtin then extended his theory into literary history 
as a principle of all upheavals and defiant productivity. 

Bakhtin's term dialogism as a semic complex thus implies the double, 
language, and another logic. Using that as point of departure, we can 
outline a new approach to poetic texts. Literary semiotics can accept 
the word 'dialogism'; the logic of distance and relationship between the 
different units of a sentence or narrative structure, indicating a becoming 
- in opposition to the level of continuity and substance, both of which 
obey the logic of being and are thus monological. Secondly, it is a logic 
of analogy and non-exclusive opposition, opposed to monological levels 
of causality and identifying determination. Finally, it is a logic of the 
'transfinite', a concept borrowed from Georg Cantor, which, on the 
basis of poetic language's 'power of the continuum' (0-2), introduces 
a second principle of formation: a poetic sequence is a 'next-larger' (not 
causally deduced) to all preceding sequences of the Aristotelian chain 
(scientific, monological or narrative). The novel's ambivalent space thus 
can be seen as regulated by two formative principles: monological (each 

Word, Diabgue and Novel 43 

following sequence is determined by the preceding one), and dialogical 
(transfinite sequences that are next-larger to the preceding causal 
series). 18 

Dialogue appears most clearly in the structure of carnivalesque 
language, where symbolic relationships and analogy take precedence 
over substance-causality connections. The notion of ambivalence pertains 
to the permutation of the two spaces observed in novelistic structure: 
dialogical space and monological space. 

From a conception of poetic language as dialogue and ambivalence, 
Bakhtin moves to a re-evaluation of the novel's structure. This investiga- 
tion takes the form of a classification of words within the narrative - 
the classification being then linked to a typology of discourse. 

Classification of words within the narrative 

According to Bakhtin, there are three categories of words within the 

First, the direct word, referring back to its object, expresses the last 
possible degree of signification by the subject of discourse within the 
limits of a given context. It is the annunciating, expressive word of the 
writer, the denotative word, which is supposed to provide him with 
direct, objective comprehension. It knows nothing but itself and its 
object, to which it attempts to be adequate (it is not 'conscious' of the 
influences of words foreign to it). 

Second, the object-oriented word is the direct discourse of 'characters'. 
It has direct, objective meaning, but is not situated on the same level 
as the writer's discourse; thus, it is at some distance from the latter. 
It is both oriented towards its object and is itself the object of the writer's 
orientation. It is a foreign word, subordinate to the narrative word as 
object of the writer's comprehension. But the writer's orientation 
towards the word as object does not penetrate it but accepts it as a whole, 
changing neither meaning nor tonality; it subordinates that word to its 
own task, introducing no other signification. Consequently, the object- 
oriented word, having become the object of an another (denotative) 
word, is not 'conscious' of it. The object-oriented word, like the 
denotative word, is therefore univocal. 

In the third instance, however, the writer can use another's word, 
giving it a new meaning while retaining the meaning it already had. 
The result is a word with two significations: it becomes ambivalent. This 

44 Linguistics, Semiotics, Texluality 

ambivalent word is therefore the result of a joining of two sign-systems. 
Within the evolution of genres, ambivalent words appear in Menippean 
and carnivalesque texts (I shall return to this point). The forming of 
two sign-systems relativizes the text. Stylizing effects establish a distance 
with regard to the word of another - contrary to imitation (Bakhtin, 
rather, has in mind repetition), which takes what is imitated (repeated) 
seriously, claiming and appropriating it without relativizing it. This 
category of ambivalent words is characterized by the writer's exploita- 
tion of another's speech - without running counter to its thought - 
for his own purposes; he follows its direction while relativizing it. A 
second category of ambivalent words, parody for instance, proves to 
be quite different. Here the writer introduces a signification opposed 
to that of the other's word. A third type of ambivalent word, of which 
the hidden interior polemic is an example, is characterized by the active 
(modifying) influence of another's word on the writer's word. It is the 
writer who 'speaks', but a foreign discourse is constantly present in 
the speech that it distorts. With this active kind of ambivalent word, 
the other's word is represented by the word of the narrator. Examples 
include autobiography, polemical confessions, quesuons-and-answers 
and hidden dialogue. The novel is the only genre in which ambivalent 
words appear; that is the specific characteristic of its structure. 

The inherent dialogism of denotative or historical words 

The notion of univocity or objectivity of monologue and of the epic 
to which it is assimilated, or of the denotative object-oriented word, 
cannot withstand psychoanalytic or semantic analysis of language. 
Dialogism is coextensive with the deep structures of discourse. Notwith- 
standing Bakhtin and Benveniste, dialogism appears on the level of the 
Bakhtinian denotative word as a principle of every enunciation, as well 
as on the level of the 'story' in Benveniste. The story, like Benveniste's 
concept of 'discourse' itself, presupposes an intervention by the speaker 
within the narrative as well as an orientation towards the other. In order 
to describe the dialogism inherent in the denotative or historical word, 
we would have to turn to the psychic aspect of writing as trace of a 
dialogue with oneself (with another), as a writer's distance from himself, 
as a splitting of the writer into subject of enunciation and subject of 
By the very act of narrating, the subject of narration addresses an 

Word, Dialogue and Novel 45 

other; narration is structured in relation to this other. (On the strength 
of such a communication, Francis Ponge offers his own variation of 
'I think therefore I am': 'I speak and you hear me, therefore we are.' 
He thus postulates a shift from subjectivism to ambivalence.) Conse- 
quently, we may consider narration (beyond the signifier/signified 
relationship) as a dialogue between the subject of narration (S) and the 
addressee (A) - the other. This addressee, quite simply the reading 
subject, represents a doubly oriented entity: signifier in his relation to 
the text and signified in the relation between the subject of narration 
and himself. This entity is thus a dyad (A t and A 2 ) whose two terms, 
communicating with each other, constitute a code-system. The subject 
of narration (S) is drawn in, and therefore reduced to a code, to a non- 
person, to an anonymity (as writer, subject of enunciation) mediated 
by a third person, the he/she character, the subject of utterance. The 
writer is thus the subject of narration transformed by his having included 
himself within the narrative system; he is neither nothingness nor 
anybody, but the possibility of permutation from S to A, from story 
to discourse and from discourse to story. He becomes an anonymity, 
an absence, a blank space, thus permitting the structure to exist as such. 
At the very origin of narration, at the very moment when the writer 
appears, we experience emptiness. We see the problems of death, birth 
and sex appear when literature touches upon this strategic point that 
writing becomes when it exteriorizes linguistic systems through narrative 
structure (genres). On the basis of this anonymity, this zero where the 
author is situated, the he/she of the character is born. At a later stage, 
it will become a proper name (N). Therefore, in a literary text, does 
not exist; emptiness is quickly replaced by a 'one' (a he/she, or a proper 
name) that is really twofold, since it is subject and addressee. It is the 
addressee, the other, exteriority (whose object is the subject of narra- 
tion and who is at the same time represented and representing) who 
transforms the subject into an author. That is, who has the S pass through 
this zero-stage of negation, of exclusion, constituted by the author. In 
this coming-and-going movement between subject and other, between 
writer (W) and reader, the author is structured as a signifier and the 
text as a dialogue of two discourses. 

The constitution of characters (of 'personality') also permits a 
disjunction of S into S r (subject of enunciation) and S d (subject of 
utterance) . A diagram of this mutation would appear as diagram 1 . This 
diagram incorporates the structure of the pronominal system 16 that 

46 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

Diagram 1 

psychoanalysts repeatedly find in the discourse of the object of 
psychoanalysis (see diagram 2). 

I S 

h ei N 

he S r 

(some) one S d 

Diagram 2 

At the level of the text (of the signifier) - in the S r -S d relationship 
- we find this dialogue of the subject with the addressee around which 
every narration is structured. The subject of utterance, in relation to 
the subject of enunciation, plays the role of addressee with respect to 
the subject; it inserts the subject of enunciation within the writing system 
by making the latter pass through emptiness. Mallarme' called this 
operation 'elocutionary disappearance'. 

The subject of utterance is both representative of the subject of 
enunciation and represented as object of the subject of enunciation. It 
is therefore commutable with the writer's anonymity. A character (a 
personality) is constituted by this generation of a double entity starting 
from zero. The subject of utterance is 'dialogicaT, both S and A are 
disguised within it. 

The procedure I have just described in confronting narration and the 
novel now abolishes distinctions between signifier and signified. It 
renders these concepts ineffective for that literary practice operating 
uniquely within dialogical signifier(s). 'The signifier represents the 
subject for another signifier' (Lacan). 

Narration, therefore, is always constituted as a dialogical matrix by 
the receiver to whom this narration refers. Any narration, including 

Word, Dialogue and Novel 47 

history and science, contains this analogical dyad formed by the narrator 
in conjunction with the other. It is translated through the dialogical 
S r /S d relationship, with S r and S d filling the roles of signifier and signi- 
fied in turns, but constituting merely a permutation of two signifier s. 
It is, however, only through certain narrative structures that this 
dialogue - this hold on the sign as double, this ambivalence of writing 
- is exteriorized in the actual organization of poetic discourse on the 
level of textual literary occurrence. 

Towards a typology of discourses 

Bakh tin's radical undertaking - the dynamic analysis of texts resulting 
in a redistribution of genres - calls upon us to be just as radical in 
developing a typology of discourses. 

As it is used by the Formalists, the term 'narrative' is too ambiguous 
to cover all of the genres it supposedly designates. At least two different 
types of narrative can be isolated. 

We have on the one hand monological discourse, including, first, the 
representative mode of description and narration (the epic); secondly, 
historical discourse; and thirdly, scientific discourse. In all three, the 
subject both assumes and submits to the rule of 1 (God). The dialogue 
inherent in all discourse is smothered by a prohibition, a censorship, 
such that this discourse refuses to turn back upon itself, to enter into 
dialogue with itself. To present the models of this censorship is to 
describe the nature of the differences between two types of discourse: 
the epic type (history and science) and the Menippean type (carnival- 
esque writings and novel), which transgresses prohibition. Monological 
discourse corresponds to Jakobson's systematic axis of language, and 
its analogous relationship to grammatical affirmation and negation has 
also been noted. 

On the other hand, dialogical discourse includes carnivalesque and 
Menippean discourses as well as the polyphonic novel. In its structures, 
writing reads another writing, reads itself and constructs itself through 
a process of destructive genesis. 

Epic monologism 

The epic, structured at the limits of syncretism, illustrates the double 
value of words in their post-syncretic phase: the utterance of a subject 

48 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

(T) inevitably penetrated by language as carrier of the concrete, 
universal, individual and collective. But in an epic, the speaker (subject 
of the epic) does not make use of another's speech. The dialogical play 
of language as correlation of signs - the dialogical permutation of two 
signifiers for one signified - takes place on the level of narration (through 
the denotative word, or through the inherency of the text). It does not 
exteriorize itself at the level of textual manifestation as in the structure 
of novels. This is the scheme at work within an epic, with no hint as 
yet of Bakhtin's problematic - the ambivalent word. The organizational 
principle of epic structure thus remains monological. The dialogue of 
language does not manifest itself except within a narrative infirastructure. 
There is no dialogue at the level of the apparent textual organization 
(historical enunciation/discursive enunciation); the two aspects of enun- 
ciation remain limited by the narrator's absolute point of view, which 
concides with the wholeness of a god or community. Within epic 
monologism, we detect the presence of the 'transcendental signified' 
and 'self presence' as highlighted by Jacques Derrida. 

It is the systematic mode of language (similarity, according to 
Jakobson) that prevails within the epic space. Metonymic contiguity, 
specific to the syntagmatic axis of language, is rare. Of course, association 
and metonymy are there as rhetorical figures, but they are never a 
principle of structural organization. Epic logic pursues the general 
through the specific; it thus assumes a hierarchy within the structure 
of substance. Epic logic is therefore causal, that is, theological; it is 
a belief in the literal sense of the word. 

The carnival: a homology between the body, dream, 
linguistic structure and structures of desire 

Carnivalesque structure is like the residue of a cosmogony that ignored 
substance, causality or identity outside its link to the whole, which exists 
only in or through relationship. This carnivalesque cosmogony has persisted 
in the form of an anti-theological (but not anti-mystical) and deeply 
popular movement. It remains present as an often misunderstood and 
persecuted substratum of official Western culture throughout its entire 
history; it is most noticeable in folk games as well as in medieval theatre 
and prose (anecdotes, fables and the Roman de Renart). As composed 
of distances, relationships, analogies and non-exclusive oppositions, it 
is essentially dialogical. It is a spectacle* but without a stage: a game, 

Word, Dialogue and Novel 49 

but also a daily undertaking; £ signifies but also a signified. That is, 
two texts meet, contradict and relativize each other. A carnival partici- 
pant is both actor and spectator; he loses his sense of individuality, passes 
through a zero point of camivalesque activity and splits into a subject 
of the spectacle and an object of the game. Within the carnival, the 
subject is reduced to nothingness, while the structure of the author 
emerges as anonymity that creates and sees itself created as self and 
other, as man and mask. The cynicism of this camivalesque scene, which 
destroys a god in order to impose its own dialogical laws, calls to mind 
Nietzsche's Dionysianism. The carnival first exteriorizes the structure 
of reflective literary productivity, then inevitably brings to light this 
structure's underlying unconscious: sexuality and death. Out of the - " 
dialogue that is established between them, the structural dyads of 
carnival appear: high and low, birth and agony, food and excrement, 
praise and curses, laughter and tears. 

Figures germane to camivalesque language, including repetition, 
'inconsequent* statements (which are none the less 'connected' within 
an infinite context) and non-exclusive opposition, which function as 
empty sets or disjunctive additions, produce a more flagrant dialogism 
than any other discourse. Disputing the laws of language based on the 
0-1 interval, the carnival challenges God, authority and social law; in 
so far as it is dialogical, it is rebellious. Because of its subversive 
discourse, the word 'carnival' has understandably acquired a strongly 
derogatory or narrowly burlesque meaning in our society. 

The scene of the carnival, where there is no stage, no 'theatre', is 
thus both stage and life^ game and dream, discourse and spectacle. By 
the same token, it is proffered as the only space in which language 
escapes linearity (law) to live as drama in three dimensions. At a deeper 
level, this also signifies the contrary: drama becomes located in language. 
A major principle thus emerges: all poetic discourse is dramatization, 
dramatic permutation (in a mathematical sense) of words. Within 
camivalesque discourse, we can already adumbrate that 'as to mental 
condition, it is like the meanderings of drama' (Mallarmd). This scene, 
whose symptom is camivalesque discourse, is the only dimension where 
'theatre might be the reading of a book, its writing in operation'. 
In other words, such a scene is the only place where discourse attains 
its 'potential infinity' (to use David Hilbert's term), where prohibi- 
tions (representation, 'monologism') and their transgression (dream, 
body, 'dialogism') coexist. Camivalesque tradition was absorbed into 

50 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

Menippean discourse and put into practice by the polyphonic novel. 
On the omnified stage of carnival, language parodies and relativizes 
itself, repudiating its role in representation; in so doing, it provokes 
laughter but remains incapable of detaching itself from representation. 
The syntagmatic axis of language becomes exteriorized in this space 
and, through dialogue with the systematic axis, constitutes the ambiva- 
lent structure bequeathed by carnival to the novel. Faulty (by which 
I mean ambivalent), both representative and anti-representative, the 
carnivalesque structure is anti-Christian and anti-rationalist. All of the 
most important polyphonic novels are inheritors of the Menippean, 
carnivalesque structure: those of Rabelais, Cervantes, Swift, Sade, 
Balzac, Lautr6amont, Dostoevsky, Joyce and Kafka. Its history is the 
history of the struggle against Christianity and its representation; this 
means an exploration of language (of sexuality and death), a consecration 
of ambivalence and of 'vice'. 

The word 'carnivalesque' lends itself to an ambiguity one must avoid. 
In contemporary society, it generally connotes parody, hence a streng- 
thening of the law. There is a tendency to blot out the carnival's dramatic 
(murderous, cynical and revolutionary in the sense of dialectical transfor- 
mation) aspects, which Bakhtin emphasized, and which he recognized 
in Menippean writings or in Dostoevsky. The laughter of the carnival 
is not simply parodic; it is no more comic than tragic; it is both at once, 
one might say that it is serious. This is the only way that it can avoid 
becoming either the scene of law or the scene of its parody, in order 
to become the scene of its other. Modern writing offers several striking 
examples of this omnified scene that is both law and others - where 
laughter is silenced because it is not parody but murder and revolution 
(Antonin Artaud). 

The epic and the carnivalesque are the two currents that formed 
European narrative, one taking precedence over the other according 
to the times and the writer. The carnivalesque tradition of the people 
is still apparent in personal literature of late antiquity and has remained, 
to this day, the life source reanimating literary thought, orienting it 
towards new perspectives. 

Classical humanism helped dissolve the epic monologism that speech 
welded together so well, and that orators, rhetoricians and politicians, 
on the one hand, tragedy and epic, on the other, implemented so effec- 
tively. Before another monologism could take root (with the triumph of 
formal logic, Christianity and Renaissance humanism), 17 late antiquity 

Word, Dialogue and Novel 51 

gave birth to two genres that reveal language's dialogism. Situated within 
the carnivalesque tradition, and constituting the yeast of the European 
novel, these two genres are Socratic dialogue and Menippean discourse. 

Socratic dialogue: dialogism as a destruction of the person 

Socratic dialogue was widespread in antiquity: Plato, Xenophon, 
Antisthenes, Aeschines, Phaedo, Euclid and others excelled in it, 
although only the dialogues of Plato and Xenophon have come down 
to us. Not as much rhetorical in genre as popular and carnivalesque, 
it was originally a kind of memoir (the recollections of Socrates' discus- 
sions with his students) that broke away from the constraints of history, 
retaining only the Socratic process of analogically revealing truth, as 
well as the structure of a recorded dialogue framed by narrative. 
Nietzsche accused Plato of having ignored Dionysian tragedy, but 
Socratic dialogue had adopted the dialogical and defiant structure of 
the carnivalesque scene. According to Bakhtin, Socratic dialogues are 
characterized by opposition to any official monologism claiming to 
possess a ready-made truth. Socratic truth ('meaning') is the product 
of a dialogical relationship among speakers; it is correlational and its 
relativism appears by virtue of the observers' autonomous points of view. 
Its art is one of articulation of fantasy, correlation of signs. Two typical 
devices for triggering this linguistic network are syncrisis (confronting 
different discourses on the same topic) and anacrusis (one word 
prompting another). The subjects of discourse are non-persons, 
anonyms, hidden by the discourse constituting them. Bakhtin reminds 
us that the 'event' of Socratic dialogue is of the nature of discourse: 
a questioning and testing, through speech, of a definition. This speech 
practice is therefore organically linked to the man who created it 
(Socrates and his students), or better, speech is man and his activity. 
Here, one can speak of a practice possessing a synthetic character; the 
process separating the word as act, as apodeictic practice, as articula- 
tion of difference from the image as representation, as knowledge and 
as idea was not yet complete when Socratic dialogue took form. But 
there is an important 'detail' to Socratic dialogism; it is the exclusive 
position of a subject of discourse that provokes the dialogue. In the 
Apology of Plato, Socrates' trial and the period of awaiting judgement 
determine his discourse as the confessions of a man 'on the threshold'. 
The exclusive situation liberates the word from any univocal objectivity, 

52 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

from any representative function, opening it up to the symbolic sphere. 
Speech affronts death, measuring itself against another discourse; this 
dialogue counts the person out. 

The resemblance between Socratic dialogue and the ambivalent word 
of the novel is obvious. 

Socratic dialogue did not last long, but it gave birth to several dialogical 
genres, including Menippean discourse, whose origins also lie in 
carnivalesque folklore. 

Menippean discourse: the text as social activity 

1 Menippean discourse takes its name from Menippus of Gadara, a 
philosopher of the third century BC. His satires were lost, but we know 
of their existence through the writings of Diogenes Laertius. The term 
was used by the Romans to designate a genre of the first century BC 
(Marcus Terentius Varro's Satirae Menippeae). 

Yet the genre actually appeared much earlier; its first representative 
was perhaps Antisthenes, a student of Socrates and one of the writers 
of Socratic dialogue. Heraclitus also wrote Menippean texts (according 
to Cicero, he created an analogous genre called logistoricus); Varro gave 
it definite stability. Other examples include Seneca the Younger's 
Apocolocynthosis, Petronius' Satyricon, Lucan's satires, Ovid's Meta- 
morphoses, Hippocrates' Novel, various samples of Greek 'novels', 
classical Utopian novels and Roman (Horatian) satire. Within the 
Menippean sphere there evolve diatribe soliloquy and other minor 
genres of controversy. It greatly influenced Christian and Byzantine 
literature; in various forms, it survived through the Middle Ages, the 
Renaissance and the Reformation through to the present (the novels 
of Joyce, Kafka and Bataille). This carnivalesque genre - as pliant and 
variable as Proteus, capable of insinuating itself into other genres - had 
an enormous influence on the development of European literature and 
especially the formation of the novel. 

Menippean discourse is both comic and tragic, or rather, it is serious 
in the same sense as is the carnivalesque; through the status of its words, 
it is politically and socially disturbing. It frees speech from historical 
constraints, and this entails a thorough boldness in philosophical and 
imaginative inventiveness. Bakhtin emphasizes that 'exclusive' situations 
increase freedom of language in Menippean discourse. Phantasmagoria 
and an often mystical symbolism fuse with macabre naturalism. 

Wordy Dialogue and Novel 53 

Adventures unfold in brothels, robbers' dens, taverns, fairgrounds and 
prisons, among erotic orgies and during sacred worship, and so forth. 
The word has no fear of incriminating itself. It becomes free from 
presupposed 'values'; without distinguishing between virtue and vice, 
and without distinguishing itself from them, the word considers them 
its private domain, as one of its creations. Academic problems are pushed 
aside in favour of the 'ultimate' problems of existence: this discourse 
orients liberated language towards philosophical universalism. Without 
distinguishing ontology from cosmogony, it unites them into a prac- 
tical philosophy of life. Elements of thefantasric^-which never appear 
in epic or tragic works, crop forth here. For example, an unusual 
perspective from above changes the scale of observation in Lucan's Icaro- 
menippea, Varro's Endymion and later in the works of Rabelais, Swift 
and Voltaire. Pathological states of the soul, such as madness, split 
personalities, daydreams, dreams and death, become part of the narra- 
tive (they affect the writing of Shakespeare and CaMeron). According 
to Bakhtin, these elements have more structural than thematic signifi- 
cance; they destroy man's epic and tragic unity as well as his belief in 
identity and causality; they indicate that he has lost his totality and no 
longer coincides with himself. At the same time, they often appear as 
an exploration of language and writing: in Varro's Bimarcus, the two 
Marcuses discuss whether or not one should write in tropes. Menip- 
pean discourse tends towards the scandalous and eccentric in language. 
The 'inopportune' expression, with its cynical frankness, its desecration 
of the sacred and its attack on etiquette, is quite characteristic. This 
discourse is made up of contrasts: virtuous courtesans, generous bandits, 
wise men that are both free and enslaved, and so on. It uses abrupt 
transitions and changes; high and low, rise and fall, and misalliances 
of all kinds. Its language seems fascinated with the 'double' (with its 
own activity as graphic trace, doubling an 'outside') and with the logic 
of opposition replacing that of identity in defining terms. It is an all- 
inclusive genre, put together as a pavement of citations. It includes all 
genres (short stories, letters, speeches, mixtures of verse and prose) 
whose structural signification is to denote the writer's distance from 
his own and other texts. The multi-stylism and multi-tonality of this 
discourse and the analogical status of its word explain why it has been 
impossible for classicism, or for any other authoritarian society, to 
express itself in a novel descended from Menippean discourse. 
Put together as an exploration of the body, dreams and language, this 

54 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

writing grafts on to the topical: it is a kind of political journalism of 
its time. Its discourse exteriorizes political and ideological conflicts of 
the moment. The dialogism of its words is practical philosophy doing 
battle against idealism and religious metaphysics, against the epic. It 
constitutes the social and political thought of an era fighting against 
theology, against law. 

2 Menippean discourse is thus structured as ambivalence, as the 
focus for two tendencies of Western literature: representation through 
language as staging, and exploration of language as a correlative system 
of signs. Language in the Menippean tradition is both representation 
of exterior space and 'an experience that produces its own space'. In 
this ambiguous genre appear, first, the premises of realism (a secondary 
activity in relation to what is lived, where man describes himself by 
making of himself an exhibition, finally creating 'characters' and 
'personalities'); and secondly the refusal to define a psychic universe (an 
immediately present activity, characterized by images, gestures and 
word-gestures through which man lives his limits in the impersonal). 
This second aspect relates Menippean structure to the structure of 
dreams and hieroglyphic writing or, possibly, to the theatre of cruelty 
as conceived by Artaud. His words apply equally; Menippean discourse 
'is not equal to individual life, to that individual aspect of life where 
characters triumph, but rather to a kind of liberated life that sweeps 
away human individuality and where man is no more than a reflected 
image.' Likewise, the Menippean experience is not cathartic; it is a 
festival of cruelty, but also a political act. It transmits no fixed message 
except that itself should be 'the eternal joy of becoming', and it exhausts 
itself in the act and in the present. Born after Socrates, Plato and the 
Sophists, it belongs to an age when thought ceases to be practice; the 
fact that it is considered as a techne shows that the praxis^poiesis separa- 
tion has already taken place. Similarly, literature becoming 'thought' 
becomes conscious of itself as sign. Man, alienated from nature and 
society, becomes alienated from himself, discovering his 'interior' and 
'reifying' this discovery in the ambivalence of Menippean writing. Such 
tokens are the harbingers ttf realist representation. Menippean discourse, 
however, knows nothing of a theological principle's monologism (or 
of the Renaissance man-God) that could have consolidated its represen- 
tative aspect. The 'tyranny' it is subjected to is that of text (not speech 
as reflection of a pre-existing universe), or rather its own structure, 
constructing and understanding itself through itself. It constructs itself 

Word, Dialogue and Novel 55 

as a hieroglyph, all the while remaining a spectacle. It bequeaths this 
ambivalence to the novel, above all to the polyphonic novel, which knows 
neither law nor hierarchy, since it is a plurality of linguistic elements 
in dialogical relationships. The conjunctive-principle of the different 
parts of Menippean discourse is certainly similitude (resemblance, 
dependence and therefore 'realism'), but also contiguity (analogy, 
juxtaposition and therefore 'rhetoric' - not in Benedetto Croce's sense 
of ornament, but rather, as justification through and in language). 
Menippean ambivalence consists of communication between two 
spaces: 18 that of the scene and that of the hieroglyph, that of represen- 
tation by language, and that of experience in language, system and 
phrase, metaphor and metonymy. This ambivalence is the novel's 

In other words, the dialogism of Menippean and carnivalesque dis- 
courses, translating a logic of relations and analogy rather than of 
substance and inference, stands against Aristotelian logic. From within 
the very interior of formal logic, even while skirting it, Menippean 
dialogism contradicts it and points it towards other forms of thought. 
Indeed, Menippean discourse develops in times of opposition against 
Aristotelianism, and writers of polyphonic novels seem to disapprove 
of the very structures of official thought founded on formal logic. 

The subversive novel 

1 In the Middle Ages, Menippean tendencies were held in check by 
the authority of the religious text; in the bourgeois era* they were 
contained by the absolutism of individuals and things. Only modernity 
- when freed of 'God* - releases fEeZMemppean force of the novel. 

Now that modern, bourgeois society has not only accepted, but claims 
to recognize itself in the novel, 18 such claim can only refer to the 
category of monological narratives, known as realistic, that censor 
all carnivalesque and Menippean elements, whose structures were 
assembled at the time of the Renaissance. On the contrary, the Menip- 
pean, dialogical novel, tending to refuse representation and the epic, 
has only been tolerated; that is, it has been declared unreadable, ignored 
or ridiculed. Today, it shares the same fate as the carnivalesque discourse 
practised by students during the Middle Ages outside the Church. 

The novel, and especially the modern, polyphonic novel, incorporating 
Menippean elements, embodies the effort of European thought to break 

56 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

out of the framework of causally determined identical substances and 
head towards another modality of thought that proceeds through 
dialogue (a logic of distance, relativity, analogy, non-exclusive and 
transfmite opposition). It is therefore not surprising that the novel has 
been considered as an inferior genre (by neo-classicism and other similar 
regimes) or as subversive (I have in mind the major writers of polyphonic 
novels over many centuries - Rabelais, Swift, Sade, Lautreamont, Kafka 
and Bataille - to mention only those who have always been and still 
remain on the fringe of official culture). The way in which European 
thought transgresses its constituent characteristics appears clearly in 
the words and narrative structures of the twentieth-century novel. 
Identity, substance, causality and definition are transgressed so that 
others may be adopted: analogy, relation, opposition, and therefore 
dialogism and Menippean ambivalence. 20 

Although this entire historical inventory that Bakhtin has undertaken 
evokes the image of a museum or the task of an archivist, it is none 
the less rooted in our present concerns. Everything written today unveils 
either the possibility or impossibility of reading and rewriting history. 
This possibility is evident in the literature heralded by the writings of 
a new generation, where the text is elaborated as theatre and as reading. 
Mallarm6, one of the first to understand the Menippean qualities of 
the novel (let it be emphasized that Bakhtin's term has the advantage 
of situating a certain kind of writing within history), said that literature 
'is nothing but the flash of what should have been produced previously 
or clqser to the origin'. 

2 I would now suggest two models for organizing narrative significa- 
tion, based on two dialogical categories: (1) Subject (S) =* Addressee 
(A); and (2) Subject of enunciation *± Subject of utterance. 

The first model implies a dialogical relationship, while the second 
presupposes modal relationships within this dialogical formation. The 
first model determines genre (epic poem, novel) while the second 
determines generic variants. 

Within the polyphonic structure of a novel, the first dialogical model 
(S ^ A) plays itself out entirely within the writing discourse; and it 
presents itself as perpetually challenging this discourse. The writer's 
interlocutor, then, is the writer himself, but as reader of another text. 
The one who writes is the same as the one who reads. Since his inter- 
locutor is a text, he himself is no more than a text re-reading itself as 
it rewrites itself. The dialogical structure, therefore, appears only in 

Word, Dialogue and Novel 57 

the light of the text elaborating itself as ambivalent in relation to another 

In the epic, on the other hand, A is an extra-textual, absolute entity 
(God or community) that relativizes dialogue to the point where it is 
cancelled out and reduced to monologue.jWith this in mind, it is easy 
to understand why not only the so-called^traditional' novel of the nine- 
teenth century, but also any novel with any ideological thesis whatsoever, 
tends towards an epic, thus constituting a deviation in the very structure 
of the novel; this is why Tolstoy's monologism is epicand Dostoevsky's 
dialogism hovelistic. 

Within the framework of the second model, several possibilities may 
be detected: 

a The subject of utterance (S d ) coincides with the zero degree of 
the subject of enunciation (S r ), which can be designated either by 
the 'he/she' non-person pronoun or a proper name. This is the 
simplest technique found at the inception of the narrative. 

b The subject of utterance (S^ coincides with the subject of enun- 
ciation (S r ). This produces a first person narrative: T. 

c The subject of utterance (Sd) coincides with the addressee (A). 
This produces a second person narrative: 'you': as for example 
with Raskolnikov's object-oriented word in Crime and Punishment. 
Michel Butor insistently explored this technique in A Change of 

d The subject of utterance (Sd) coincides both with the subject of 
enunciation (S r ) and the addressee (A). In such a case the novel 
becomes a questioning of writing and displays the staging of its 
dialogical structure. At the same time, the text becomes a reading 
(quotation and commentary) of an exterior literary corpus and is 
thus constructed as ambivalence. Through its use of personal pro- 
nouns and anonymous quotations, Philippe Sollers's Thame is an 
example of this fourth possibility. 

A reading of Bakhtin therefore leads to the paradigm shown in 
figure 1. 

I should finally like to insist on the importance of Bakhtin 's concepts 
(on the status of the word, dialogue and ambivalence), as well as on 
the importance of certain new perspectives opened up through them. 

By establishing the status of the word as minimal unit of the text, 
Bakhtin deals with structure at its deepest level, beyond the sentence 

58 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

Correlational logic 





Aristotelian logic 



i i 


Menippean discourse 

Polyphonic novel 

Figure 1 

and rhetorical figures. The notion of status has added to the image of 
the text as a corpus of atoms that of a text made up of relationships, 
within which words function as quantum units. If there is a modeHnr 
poetic language, it no longer involves lines or surfaces, but rather, space 
and infinity - concepts amenable to formalization through set theory 
and the new mathematics. Contemporary analysis of narrative structure 
has been refined to the point where it can delineate functions (cardinal 
or catalytic), and indices (as such or as information); it can describe 
the elaboration of a narrative according to particular logical or rhetorical 
patterns. Without gainsaying the undisputed value of this kind of 
research, 21 one might wonder whether the presuppositions of a 
metalanguage that sets up hierarchies or is heterogeneous to narrative 
do not weigh too heavily upon such studies. Perhaps Bakhtin's naive 
procedure, centred on the word and its unlimited ability to generate 
dialogue (commentary of a quotation), is both simpler and more 

The notion of dialogism, which owed much to Hegel, must not be 
confused with Hegelian dialectics, based on a triad and thus on struggle 
and projection (a movement of transcendence), which does not trans- 
gress the Aristotelian tradition founded on substance and causality. 
Dialogism replaces these concepts by absorbing them within the concept 
of relation. It does not strive towards transcendence but rather toward 
harmony, all the while implying an idea of rupture (of opposition and 
analogy) as a modality of transformation. 

Dialogism situates philosophical problems within language; more 
precisely, within language as a correlation of texts, as a reading- writing 

Wordy Dialogue and Novel 59 

that falls in with non- Aristotelian, syntagmatic, correlational, 'carnival- 
esque' logic. Consequently, one of the fundamental problems facing 
contemporary semiotics is precisely to describe this 'other logic' without 
denaturing it. 

The term 'ambivalence' lends itself perfectly to the current transitory 
stage of European literature - a coexistence (an ambivalence of 'the 
double of lived experience' (realism and the epic) and 'lived experience' 
itself (linguistic exploration and Menippean discourse) - a literature 
that will perhaps arrive at a form of thought similar to that of painting: 
the transmission of essence through form, and the configuration of 
(literary) space as revealing (literary) thought without 'realist' pre- 
tensions. This entails the study, through language, of the novel's space 
and of its transmutations, thereby establishing a close relationship 
between language and space, compelling us to analyse them as modes 
of thought. By examining the ambivalence of the spectacle (realist 
representation) and of lived experience (rhetoric), one might perceive 
the line where the rupture (or junction) between them takes place. That 
line could be seen as the graph of a motion through which our culture 
forsakes itself in order to go beyond itself. 

The path charted between the two poles of dialogue radically abolishes 
problems of causality , finality, etc., from our philosophical arena. It 
suggests the importance of the analogical principle for aspac e^of thoug ht 
much larger than that of the nove l. More than binarism, dialogism may 
well become the basis of our time's intellectual structure. The 

predominance of the noveTand other ambivalent literary structures; the 
communal, carnivalesque phenomena attracting young people; quanturp 
exchanges; and current interest in the correlational symbolism of Chinese 
philosophy - to cite only a few striking elements of modern thought 
- all confirm this hypothesis. 


1 The point of departure for this essay lies in two books by Mikhail Bakhtin: Rabelais 
and His World, tr. Helene Iswolsky (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press, 1965), and 
Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, tr. R. W. Rotsel (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1973). 
Bakhtin died in 1975, the year of the publication of his collection of essays, Voprosy 
literatury t estetiki (Moscow), published in French as Esth4tique el thiorie du roman 
(Paris: Gallimard, 1978). 

2 Derrida uses the word gram (from the Greek gramma, 'that which is written') to 
designate the irreducible material element of writing, as opposed to the vast amount 

60 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

of extraneous connotations currently surrounding that word. See his OfGrammatology, 
tr. Gayatri Spivak (Baltimore, Aid: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976). 

3 Language is as old as consciousness, language is practical consciousness that exists 
also for other men, and for that reason alone it really exists for me personally as 
well.' Karl Marx, The German Ideology, tr. S. Ryazanskaya, in The Marx-Engels 
Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York: Norton, 1972), p. 122. [The French 
translation quoted by Kristeva is less faithful to the German text, although, in the 
latter part of the sentence, the German word for 'genuine' does modify 'conscious- 
ness': ' . . .auch fur mich selbst echt existierende Bewu&tsein;' The French version 
begins 'Le langage est la conscience reelle. . . ' 

4 I shall refer to only a few of Bakhtin's notions in so far as they are congruent with 
the conceptions of Ferdinand de Saussure as related to his 'anagrams' (see Jean 
Starobinski, Les Mots sous Us mots, Paris: Gallimard, 1971) and suggest a new 
approach to literary texts. 

5 See Julia Kristeva, La Revolution du langage poitique (Paris: Seuil, 1974), pp. 59-60. 

6 'Indeed, when structural semantics refers to the linguistic foundations of discourse, 
it points out that 'an expanding sequence is recognized as the equivalent of a 
syntactically simpler communication' and defines 'expansion' as 'one of the most 
important aspects of the operation of natural languages'. A. J. Greimas, Semantique 
structurale (Paris: Larousse, 1966), p. 72. 1 conceive of the notion of expansion as 
the theoretical principle authorizing me to study in the structure of genres an 
exteriorization (an expansion) of structures inherent to language. 

7 E. F. Boude*, K istorii velikoruskix govorov (Towards a History of Russian Dialects) 
(Kazan: 1869). 

8 L. V. Czerba, Vostotchno-luzhickoe narechie (The Eastern Loujiks' Dialect) 
(Petrograd: 1915). 

9 V. V. Vinogradov, '0 dialogicheskoj rechi' (On dialogical discourse), in Russkaja 
rech, 1, p. 1440. 

10 V. V. Vinogradov, Poetika (Moscow: Nauka, 1926), p. 33. 

1 1 It seems that what is persistently being called 'interior monologue' is the most in- 
domitable way in which an entire civilization conceives itself as identity, as organized 
chaos and finally, as transcendence. Yet this 'monologue' probably exists only in 
texts that pretend to reconstitute the so-called physical reality of 'verbal flux'. 
Western man's state of 'interiority' is thus a limited literary effect (confessional 
form, continuous psychological speech, automatic writing). In a way, then, Freud's 
'Copernican' revolution (the discovery of the split within the subject) put an end 
to the fiction of an internal voice by positing the fundamental principles governing 
the subject's radical exteriority in relation to, and within, language. 

12 Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, pp. 151-2. 

13 'Shifters, verbal categories and the Russian verb', in Selected Writings II (The Hague: 
Mouton, 1971), pp. 130-47. 

14 Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, p. 151. 

15 1 should emphasize that introducing notions of set theory into considerations on 
poetic language has only metaphorical value. It is legitimate to do so because one 
can draw an analogy between the Aristotelian logic/poetic logic relationship on the 
one hand, and the quantifiable/infinite relationship on the other. 

Word, Dialogue and Novel 61 

16 See Luce Irigaray, 'Communication linguistique et communication speculaire', in 
Cahiers pour I'Analyse, 3, (May 1966), pp. 39-55. 

17 1 should like to stress the ambiguous role of Western individualism. Involving the 
concept of identity, it is linked to the substantialist, causal and atomist thought 
of Aristotelian Greece and has strengthened throughout centuries this activist, 
scientistic or theological aspect of Western culture. On the other hand, since it is 
founded on the principle of a difference between the 'self and the 'world', it prompts 
a search for mediation between the two terms, or for stratifications within each 
of them, in order to allow the possibility of a correlative logic based on the very 
components of formal logic. 

18 It was perhaps this phenomenon that Bakhtin had in mind when he wrote, 'The 
language of the novel can be located neither on a surface nor on a line. It is a system 
of surfaces that intersect. The author as creator of everything having to do with 
the novel cannot be located on any of these linguistic surfaces. Rather, he resides 
within the controlling centre constituted by the intersection of the surfaces. All 
these surfaces are located at varying distances from that authorial centre' ('Slovo 
o romane', in Voprosy literatury, 8 (1965), pp. 84-90). Actually, the writer is nothing 
more than the linking of these centres. Attributing a single centre to him would 
be to constrain him within a monological» Theological position. 

19 This point of view is shared by all theorists of the novel: A. Thibaudet, Reflexions 
sur le toman (Thoughts on the Novel; Paris: Gallimard, 1938); Koskimies, 'Theorie 
des Romans' (Theory of the novel), in Annates Academiae Scientarum Finnicae, I, 
series B, 35 (1935), pp. 5-275. Georg Lukacs, Theory of the Novel (Cambridge: 
MIT Press, 1971), and others. 

An interesting perspective on the concept of the novel as dialogue is provided by 
Wayne Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961). 
His ideas concerning the reliable and unreliable writer parallel some of Bakhtin's 
investigations into dialogism in the novel, although they do not posit any specific 
relationship between novelistic 'ilhisionism' and linguistic symbolism. 

20 Such a mode shows up in modern physics as well as in ancient Chinese thought, 
as the two are equally anti- Aristotelian, anti-monological and dialogical. See S. I. 
Hayakawa, 'What is meant by Aristotelian structure in language', in Language, 
Meaning and Maturity (New York: Harper, 1959); Chang Tung-sun, 'A Chinese 
philosopher's theory of knowledge', in S. I. Hayakawa, (ed.), Our Language and 
Our World (New York: Harper, 1959); Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization 
in China, vol. II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965). 

21 See the important collection of studies on narrative structure in Communication^ 
8 (1966), which includes contributions by Roland Barthes, A. J. Greimas, Claude 
Bremond, Umberto Eco, Jules Gritti, Violette Morin, Christian Metz, Tzvetan 
Todorov and Gerard Genette. 

Translated by Alice Jardine y Thomas Gora and Lion S. Roudiez 

From Symbol to Sign 

The essay is taken from Kristeva's first work in French, Le Texte du toman: 
approche semiologique d'une structure discursive transformatiormelle (The Hague: 
Mouton, 1970), written as a thesis in linguistics in 1966 and 1967, that is to 
say, shortly after her arrival in Paris in 1966. In this book Kristeva examines 
the prose work of Antoine de la Sale (c. 1385 - after 1460) in order to show 
how the novel as a semiotic practice emerges in the late Middle Ages. 

La Sale travelled widely in Europe, particularly in Italy, and became tutor 
to the Dukes of Burgundy. In 1442 he finished his first work, entitled La 
Salade, a collection of historical, geographical, juridical and ethical texts. The 
fourth part of this compilation is entitled Le Paradis de la reine Sibylle ('The 
Paradise of the Queen Sibyl') and this astonishing dream sequence is the 
implicit context of Kristeva's discussion of the various images of the Sibyl 
in medieval Europe (1.2.2). The same passage also mentions his La Sale (145 1) 
which was a collection of moral anecdotes written for his three ducal pupils. 
As a whole, Le Texte du roman nevertheless concentrates on the linguistic study 
of the Histoire etplaisante chronique du petit Jehan de Saintre el de lajeune dame 
des Belles Cousines (1456) which, apart from being La Sale's best work, is also 
considered important in the development of French prose fiction. 

In Le Texte du roman Kristeva shows that the emergence of the novel as a 
linguistic form is made possible by a fundamental change in the perception 
of the sign itself. It is this change which is examined and presented in 'From 
Symbol to Sign'. Briefly, her argument is that the general conception of 
the sign developed away from the idea of the sign as a transcendental closure 
and towards a linguistic practice which implied that it was an open-ended 
material structure. In order to develop this argument Kristeva borrows 
and redefines the term ideologeme from the Russian Formalist P. N. Medvedev. 
For Kristeva, the ideologeme is a term which enables her to grasp the inherent 
ideological value of the sign as constitutive of its meaning, and not simply 
as an 'ideological' addition to the linguistic analysis. In using this word, 
the point for Kristeva is to emphasize the fact that all forms of discourse are 
constructed by the social space in which they are enunciated (for further 

From Symbol to Sign 63 

discussion of this term, see Le Texte du roman, pp. 12-13). 

In her discussion of the symbol/sign distinction (1.1) Kristeva draws on 
C. S. Peirce's famous distinction between icon, index and symbol, but in this 
context she also uses the Peircean terms 'replica' and 'object'. According to 
Perice, the 'replica* is the 'embodiment of the word that is pronounced or 
written' ('Logic as semiotic: the theory of signs', in J. Buchler (ed.), 
Philosophical Writings ofPeirce, New York: Dover Publications, 1955, p. 112), 
and we can therefore compare it to Saussure's well-known definition of the 
signifier as the material aspect of the sign. In the same way, Kristeva herself 
defines the 'object' as the signified. 

From Symbol to Sign 

The articulation of cultures, as a function of the relations they entertain with 
the sign, will eventually permit a classification of cultures. 

J. Lotman, 'Problems of the typology of cultures', 
Information sur les sciences sociales, April- June 1967, p. 33 

1.1 The symbol/sign distinction 

We shall use the term novel to describe the kind of narrative that starts 
to emerge clearly at the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of 
the Renaissance. The object of our analysis, Jehan de Saintre by Antoine 
de la Sale, is a perfect example of such a narrative. Similar efforts 
had already been observed towards the end of Greek antiquity, in 
'Menippean' narrative structure. 1 

Despite their differences, what characterizes these two kinds of 
narrative (the novel and the Menippean form) is the way in which their 
structure indicates at once a disintegration of the epic system (the Greek 
republic or European feudalism) and a move to another way of thinking 
(late Greece after the fourth century BC and the Renaissance). We shall 
call this transition a passage from the symbol to the sign and postulate 
that the novel is a narrative structure revealing the ideologeme of the 
sign. This obliges us to define the symbol/sign difference. 

We are familiar with Peirce's generally accepted classification of signs 
as icon, index and symbol. 2 The distinction is based on the relation- 
ship between the sign and its object. The symbol, which is the element 
that concerns us here, is defined as follows: it 'refers to the object 

64 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

that it denotes by virtue of a law, usually an association of general ideas'. 

Our symbol/sign distinction, which acts both as a diachronic and as 
a synchronic classification of discursive (cultural) phenomena, involves 
Peirce's third category, where the symbol rests on a double criterion: 
(1) the relationship between the 'replica' (the signifying unit) and its 
'object' (the interpretant, the idea, the signified); (2) the series in which 
these replicas can be placed. 

This distinction is consequently more akin to the one made by 
Saussure, for in his terminology 'the symbol is characterized by its lack 
of total arbitrariness. It is not empty; it still betrays the rudiments of 
a natural link between signifier and signified.' 3 In other words, in the 
case of the symbol the signified object is represented by the signifying 
unit through a restrictive function-relation; while the sign, as we shall 
see, pretends not to assume this relation which in its case is weaker 
and therefore might be regarded as arbitrary. 4 But this Saussurian 
criterion of the symbol/sign distinction (which in fact is Hegelian) will 
be supplemented by a 'horizontal' criterion: the articulation of signifying 
units with one another. 

1.2 Characteristics of the symbol 


The second half of the Middle Ages (thirteenth to fifteenth centuries) 
was a period of transition for European culture: thought based on the 
sign replaced that based on the symbol. 

The model of the symbol characterized European society until around 
the thirteenth century, as clearly shown in the literature and painting 
of the period. It is a cosmogonic semiotic practice where the elements 
(symbols) refer back to one or more unknowable and unrepresentable 
universal transcendences); univocal connections link the transcendences 
to the units evoking them; the symbol does not 'resemble' the object 
it symbolizes; the two spaces (symbolized-symbolizer) are separate and 
cannot communicate. 

The symbol assumes that the symbolized (the universals) is irreducible 
to the symbolizer (the markings). Mythical thought operates within the 
sphere of the symbol (as in the epic, folk tales, chansons de geste, etc.), 
through symbolic units that are units of restriction in relation to the 
symbolized univerals ('heroism', 'courage', 'nobility', 'virtue', 'fear', 

From Symbol to Sign 65 

'treason', etc.). The symbol's function, in its vertical dimension 
(universals-markings), is thus one of restriction. In its horizontal dimen- 
sion (the articulation of signifying units in relation to one another) the 
function of the symbol is one of escaping the paradox; one might say 
that the symbol is horizontally anti-paradoxical: within its 'logic' two 
opposing units are exclusive. 

We are all familiar with the biblical and Augustinian dichotomy 
between 'the breath of life' and 'the dust of the earth'. In the field of 
the symbol, good and bad are incompatible, as are the raw and the 
cooked, honey and ashes, etc. The contradiction, once it appears, 
immediately demands a solution, and is thus hidden, 'resolved' and 
so put aside. 5 

The key to symbolic semiotic practice is given from the beginning 
of symbolic discourse: the course of semiotic development is a circle 
where the end is programmed, given in embryo, from the beginning 
(whose end is the beginning), since the function of the symbol (its 
ideologeme) exists prior to the actual symbolic statement. This evokes 
the general characteristics of symbolic semiotic practice: the quantitative 
limitation, repetition and general nature of symbols. 

From the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, the symbol was chal- 
lenged and weakened. This did not make it altogether disappear but 
it did assure its passage (assimilation) into the sign. The transcendental 
unity supporting the symbol - its other-worldly wrapping, its trans- 
mitting focus - was called into question. Thus, until the end of the 
fifteenth century, theatrical representations of the life of Christ were 
inspired by the canonical or apocryphal Gospels or the Golden Legend 
(see 77te Mysteries published by Jubinal and based on the manuscript 
at the Library of Sainte-Genevieve c. 1400). From the fifteenth century 
on, the theatre as well as art in general (as in the Cathedral at Evreux) 
was inundated by scenes depicting Christ's public life. The trans- 
cendental foundation evoked by the symbol seemed to capsize. This 
heralded a new signifying relation between two elements, both located 
in the 'real', 'concrete' world. In thirteenth-century art, the prophets 
were contrasted with the apostles; whereas in the fifteenth century, the 
four evangelists are no longer set against the four great prophets, but 
against the four fathers of the Latin Church (Saint Augustine, Saint 
Jerome, Saint Ambrose and Gregory the Great, as on the altar of Notre 
Dame of Avioth). Great literary and architectural compositions were 
no longer possible: the miniature replaced the cathedral, and the fifteenth 

66 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

century became the century of the miniaturists. The serenity of the 
symbol was replaced by the strained ambivalence of the sign's connec- 
tion, which presents the elements as similar and identical, despite the 
fact that it first postulates them as radically different. This is why one 
finds an obsessive insistence on the theme of dialogue between two 
irreducible but similar elements (a dialogue that generates the pathetic 
and the psychological) in this transitional period. 

Thus, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries abound in dialogues 
between God and the human soul: 'Dialogue of the Crucifix and the 
Pilgrim', 'Dialogue of the Sinful Soul and Christ', etc. Through this 
evolution the Bible became moralized (see the famous 'moralized Bible' 
of the Duke of Burgundy's library), and even replaced by pastiches 
that bracket and erase the transcendental basis of the symbol (the 'Bible 
of the Poor' and the 'Speculum humanae salvationis'). 6 


Once the relation between the signifying unit and the idea had been 
weakened, the signifying unit became more and more 'material' until 
it forgot its 'origins'. Thus, up until 1350, it is the Word, in the guise 
of Jesus Christ, which creates the world. After this date, we see the 
appearance of 'an old man who measures the earth with a compass and 
throws the sun and the stars into the heavens'. 7 The Word, that is, 
'the interpretant' (if one wishes to use modern terminology) becomes 
blurred and its replicas more visual and substantive, linked together 
in a horizontal chain firmly situated in this world. This is why it is no 
longer the Word (Christ as idea) which retains the meaning; instead it 
is the combination of 'markings' (images of the old man, the sky, the 
stars) which produce it. 

In the gradual destruction of the symbol we can therefore see how 
the ideology of creation that had dominated Gothic art and given birth 
to its wonderful architectural compositions gave way to the ideology 
of imitation. The growing circulation of wood carvings, for example, 
expresses the change in aesthetic needs from those of the prevous age, 
which was dominated by the monumental constructions of Saint-Denis 
and Chartres. 'The chief merit of these naive carvings', writes E. Male, 
'is that they always coincided with themselves.' This transformation 
reveals a law wherein the signifying unit no longer refers back to the 
vast 'idea' behind it, but instead becomes opaque, 'materialized' and 

From Symbol to Sign 67 

identifies with itself. Its vertical dimension begins to lose intensity, as 
its possible articulations with other signifying units are accentuated. 
This gives rise to the 'fragmentary' nature of works at the end of the 
Middle Ages: 'They are isolated chapters, never a whole narrative.' 8 
This imitation and fragmentation can also be found in the novel by 
Antoine de la Sale, thus confirming the transition from symbol to sign 
we are here examining. 

Since the signifying unit is capable of articulation either with itself (i.e. , 
repetition) or with other, often opposing units, a monovalent (symbolic) 
structure is replaced with a heterovalent, broken, double structure. On 
the semantic level, this movement is made manifest in the replacement of 
the discourse preaching 'goodness, gentleness and love' (which domi- 
nated the thirteenth century) with a discourse centred on suffering, grief 
and death. Let us reserve the same negative for the lexemes 'suffering', 
'grief and 'death' and stress their introduction of opposition, destruction 
and annihilation within a homogeneous, positive unity. It is the introduc- 
tion of this negativity which gives birth to psychology. Early signs of 
this change are to be found in the Passions dealing with Christ's suffer- 
ings ('De Planctu Mariae', attributed to Saint- Bernard; 'Dialogue of 
the Virgin and Saint Anselme' on the passion, etc.). Painting also comes 
to represent this split and negativity: images of the compassionate Christ 
start to appear (in 1374, on the seal of John, abbot of Anchin; some 
years later, in a book of Hours, from a manuscript dating from the end 
of the fourteenth century, to be found in the Bibliotheque Nationale). 

The introduction of alterity or negativity into the signifying unit also 
shows up in those hybrid, double, ambiguous figures which we find 
in antiquity, but which also appear at the end of the Middle Ages. These 
hybrid figures introduce the fantastic and the supernatural into the 'real' 
world and retain only a highly tenuous relationship with the trans- 
cendental idea. Such, for example, is the image of the Sibyl which we 
find in Antoine de la Sale's La Sale. The thirteenth century is already 
familiar with these sibyls - Vincent de Beauvais names the sixteen sibyls 
listed by Varron - although in France only one is represented in art, 
the Erythraean Sibyl, the terrible prophetess of the last judgement. 9 
In Italy, they are familiar with another sibyl, the Sibyl of Tivoli who 
met Augustus and announced to him the reign of God. 

By the fifteenth century there are sibyls all over Europe. The first 
painted Sibyl is to be found in the missal of the Sainte Chapelle, 
illuminated at the close of the fifteenth century. 

68 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

We might say that the image of the Sibyl is that of the infinitization 
of discourse, the figuralization of the word as it were liberated from 
its dependence on the symbol and enjoying the 'arbitrariness' of the 
sign. Belonging to this and not the other world, the Sibyl speaks all 
languages, possesses the future, reunites improbable elements both in 
and through the word. The unlimited possibilities of discourse, which 
the sign (novel) will try to represent, are symbolized in this transitory 
figure produced by the art of the late Middle Ages. 


Nominalism marks a decisive stage in the passage from symbol to sign 
that takes place in the discourse of the Middle Ages. Its clearest 
expression is to be found in the doctrines of William of Occam, which 
were violently opposed to those of Duns Scotus and denounced the 
impossibility of using philosophy to lend support to dogma. Nominalism 
attacks the thought of the symbol in its realist mode (the Platonic doctrine 
represented by St Thomas and Duns Scotus which considered universals 
or abstract units to be independent of the intellect), as well as in its 
conceptualist mode (which held that universals exist but are the product 
of intelligence). We do not propose to offer a detailed analysis of the 
ideas of William of Occam. 10 Let us simply observe that such ideas 
(which were called nominates or terministae but also moderni) were 
widespread in the fourteenth century and lay at the heart of the 
philosophical debates that took place above all at the University of Paris 
and especially in the Faculty of Arts: on 25 September 1339 they were 
condemned; and on 29 December 1340 certain Occamist and nominalist 
theses were prohibited. 11 Let us recall for our purposes a few of the 
essential points of these theses. 

First, they refuse to grant universals any real existence and so throw 
the symbolic system off-balance by depriving it of its support. It follows 
that whatever is singular cannot be universal, and consequently the 
accent is placed on the singularity of each thing ('term'), which was 
made independent of its transcendental background: 'It is not true that 
a thing is singular under one concept, and universal under another, 
for something in itself singular is never in any way or under any concept 
universal.' All reality is therefore singular, made up of independent 
terms free of any extrinsic clause. The universal lies only in the concept. 
Contrary to the logical conceptualism dominating Paris in the fourteenth 

From Symbol to Sign 69 

century which taught that the universal was a separate genre of reality, 
an esse obiectivum, William of Occam taught a 'psychological concep- 
tualism' that identified mental representation with the act of knowledge. 
As nominalism distinguishes between the concept and the term, valorizing 
the latter to the detriment of the former, it opens the way to a mode 
of thought that uses terms {names) as signs (and not symbols). It constructs 
reality as a combination [combinatoire] of terms (signs) and thus consti- 
tutes the Arts as a separate category (the majority of William of Occam's 
followers were found in the Faculties of Arts) by becoming the (un- 
conscious) philosophy of the novel and its creation. Since God can only 
be reached through a nominal definition, the series of nominal definitions 
(also represented by the novel, as we shall see in Antoine de la Sale) 
were a matter for real science that was at once distinct from the science 
of concepts (philosophy) and the science of language (grammar, logic). 
In this way, the novel is conceived of as a discourse, that is, an accumula- 
tion of nominal definitions which, because it remains expressive, still 
remains theological. Its theology, however, differs from that of the 
symbol: the novel becomes an expression through its use of a series of 
'names' ('things') 'independent' of any idea extrinsic to the order of 
their existence or their sequence. 


This deconceptualization, which is a desymbolization of discursive 
structure, is clearly conveyed by the personification of the elements of 
symbolic discourse, such as the virtues and vices (to give only one example 
deliberately chosen from Jehan de Saintre). The Middle Ages recognized 
seven virtues: three theological (Faith, Hope and Charity) and four 
cardinal (Fortitude, Justice, Temperance, Prudence). Antoine de la Sale 
also retained seven, 'three of which are divine, and four moral: the three 
divine are Faith, Hope and Charity; the four moral are Prudence, 
Temperance, Fortitude and Justice'. The fifteenth century began to 
personify the virtues without giving them any special attributes. Gerson, 
in the prologue to his diatribe against the Roman de la Rose, Alain 
Chattier, in the Consolation des trois vertus, Georges Chastelain, in his 
Temple de Boccace, all make the Virtues speak and act, and even some- 
times describe their costumes, but never speak of their attributes. 12 
We find the same treatment of the vices. In Jehan de Saintre we find 
this discourse concerning the virtues and vices in the introductory 

70 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

remarks of the Lady who gives lessons in savoir-vivre to Saint rd. The 
virtues and vices are not personified here, but are instead products of 
a mode of thought prior to the structure of the novel itself. 

On the other hand, when these units (vices and virtues) are personi- 
fied, that is to say, when they have become signs that signify in their 
own right, and do not have to rely on the idea they represent, or on 
the properties of meaning (attributes) which they might have had 
irrespective of the specific structure of meaning [combinatoire] or narra- 
tive in which they participate, then they are a striking example of the 
change in the dominant mode of thought which we have defined as being 
a passage from symbol to sign. 

1.3 Characteristics of the sign 


"the sign which appears through these mutations retains the fundamental 
Characteristic of the symbol: irreducibility of terms, that is, in the case 
of the sign, of the referent to the signified, of the signified to the signify 
and based on this, irreducibility of all the 'units* of the signifying 
structure itself. In its general make-up, the ideologeme of the sign is 
therefore similar to that of the symbol: the sign is dualist, hierarchical 
and hierarchizing. However, the difference between the sign and the 
symbol can be seen vertically as well as horizontally: within its vertical 
function, the sign refers back to entities of lesser dimensions that are 
more concretized than the symbol. These are reified universals, which 
have become objects in the strongest sense of the word. Placed in rela- 
tionship within a sign-structure, however, the entity, phenomenon or 
person in question is at once transcendentalized and elevated to the level 
of theological unity. The semiotic practice of the sign thus assimilates 
the metaphysical strategy of the symbol and projects it on to the 
'immediately perceptible'. The latter, thus valorized, is then transformed 
into an objectivity, which becomes the reigning law of discourse in the 
civilization of the sign. 

Within their horizontal function, the units of the sign's semiotic 
practice are articulated as a metonymic chain of deflections [ecarts] that 
signifies a progressive creation of metaphors. 11 Opposing terms, which 
are always exclusive, are caught up in a system of multiple and always 
possible deflections ('surprises' in narrative structures) giving the illusion 

From Symbol to Sign 71 

of an open structure that is impossible to terminate, and which has an 
arbitrary ending. Therefore, in literary discourse, the semiotic practice 
of the sign first clearly appears during the European Renaissance in 
the adventure novel, which on the level of narrative structure is modelled 
on the unforeseeable and on surprise as a reification of the deflection 
[ecart] characteristic of every practice of the sign. The course of this 
chain of deflections is practically infinite, which is why one has the 
impression that the end is arbitrary. This is an illusory impression that 
defines all 'literature' (all 'art'), since this course is programmed by 
the ideologeme constituting the sign. That is, it is programmed by a 
closed (finite), dyadic process which, first, institutes a referent-signified- 
signifier hierarchy, and secondly, interiorizes these opposing dyads in 
the very articulation of the terms, and thus, like the symbol, sets itself 
up as a resolution of contradictions. In a semiotic practice based on the 
symbol, contradiction was resolved by exclusive disjunction (non- 
equivalence) or non-conjunction (-/-); in a semiotic practice based on 
the sign contradiction is resolved by non-disjunction (-v-). 


The fact that the sign can create an open system of transformation and 
generation had already been indicated by Peirce when he spoke of the 
symbol which, for him, 'operates above all by virtue of an institution- 
alised and learnt contiguity between signifier and signified'. This con- 
cerns the expressiveness of the symbol which is akin to that of the sign as 
we have discussed it here. His judgements of the symbol are conse- 
quently valid for the sign: 'Every word is a symbol . . .The value of a 
symbol is that it serves to make thought and conduct rational and enables 
us to predict the future. Whatever is really general refers to the 
unspecified future, for the past is just a collection of specific acts that 
have been carried out. The past consists of pure facts. But a general 
law cannot be fully realized. It is a potentiality and its mode of being 
is esse in fuluro.' 1 * We can take this to mean that the ideologeme of the 
sign signifies an infinitization of discourse. Once the latter is more or 
less free from its dependence on the 'universal' (the concept, the idea 
in itself), it becomes a potential mutation, a constant transformation 
which despite being tied to one signified, is capable of many regenera- 
tions. The ideologeme of the sign can therefore suggest what is not, 
but will be, or rather can be. And this future tense is accepted by the 

72 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

sign not as something caused by extrinsic factors, but as a transformation 
produced by the possible combinations [combinatoire] within its own 


By way of summary, we can say that the sign, as the fundamental 
ideologeme of modern thought and the basic element of our (novelistic) 
discourse, possesses the following characteristics: 

- It does not refer to a single unique reality, but evokes a collection 
of associated images and ideas. While remaining expressive, it none 
the less tends to distance itself from its supporting transcendental 
basis (it may be called 'arbitrary'). 

- It is part of a specific structure of meaning [combinatoire] and in 
that sense it is correlative: its meaning is the result of an interaction 
with other signs. 

- It harbours a principle of transformation: within its field, new 
structures are forever generated and transformed. 


1 M. Bakhtin, Problem poetUri Dostoievskovo (Problems of Dostoevsky 's Poetics) (Ann 
Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1973). 

2 C. S. Peirce, in J. Buchler (ed.), Philosophical Writings ofPeirce (New York: Dover 
Publications, 1955), p. 102. 

3 F. de Saussure, Cours de linguistique gentrale (Paris: Payot 1960), p. 101 (Course 
in General Linguistics, London: Fontana/Collins, 1981, p. 68). 

4 For a critique of the notion of the arbitrary nature of the sign, see E. Benveniste, 
ProbUmes de linguistique generate (Paris: Gallimard, 1966), p. 49 {Problems in General 
Linguistics, Coral Gables, Fla: University of Miami Press, 1976). 

5 In the history of Western scientific thought, three fundamental currents break away 
in succession from the symbol's domination, and move through the sign to the 
variable: these are Platonism, conceptualism and nominalism. See V. W. Quine, 
'Reification of umversals', in From a Logical Point of View (Cambridge, Mass.: 
Harvard University Press, 1953). I have borrowed from this study the differentiation 
between two meanings of the signifying unit: one within the space of the symbol, 
the other within that of the sign. 

6 E. Male, L'Art religieux delaftndu moyen age en France (Paris: A. Colin, 1925). 

7 BN French 5, f. 5 and 6 c. 1350; French 22912, f. 2v illuminated 1371-5; French 
3, f. 5 et seq. end fourteenth century; French 9 f . 4 and 5, beginning fifteenth 
century; French 15393, f. 3 beginning fifteenth century; French 247, f. 3 beginning 
fifteenth century. 

From Symbol to Sign 73 

8 MSle, L'Art religieux, p. 227. 

9 Ibid., pp. 339ff. 

10 See R. Gulluy, Philosophic et theologie chez Guillaume d 'Occam (Lou vain, 1947); 
C. Michalski, 'Les courants philosophiques a Oxford et a Paris pendant le XlVe 
siecle', Bulletin de I'Academie polonaise des sciences el des lettres, 1920, pp. 59-88; 
C. Michalski, Les Sources du Christianisme et du scepHcisme dans la phUosophie du 
XlVe siick (Cracow, 1924). 

11 See E. Gilson, La PhUosophie au moyen age (Paris: Payot, 1962), p. 657. 

12 See Mfile, L'Art religieux. 

13 'The novel is similar in form to the dream: both can be defined by one peculiar 
property: any deviation forms part of the whole' (Valery), 

14 C. S. Peirce, 'Existential graphs', in Collected Papers, ed. C. Hartshorne and 
P. Weiss, vol. IV, The Simplest Mathematics (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University 
Press, 1933), p. 361. 

Translated by Sean Hand 

Semiotics: A Critical Science and/or 
a Critique of Science 

Written in 1968 and published in ETjfieMTixrj [SinUiotiki]. Recherches pour 
une semananalyse (Paris: Seuil, 1969), this essay focuses on two main problems: 
(1) semiotics as a critical science and (2) the concept of production as the crucial 
connection between Marx, Freud and semiotics (or semanalysis). The impor- 
tance of the article lies in its efforts to situate semiotics clearly within a double, 
Marxist and Freudian, intellectual space. Itself produced in a year of revolt, 
the essay presents semanalysis as a critical, political practice necessarily engaged 
in the subversion of the traditional order. 

Discussing the critical impact of semiotics, Kristeva argues that it is not 
only a linguistic theory, but, crucially, a theory formation which necessarily 
theorizes its own production of theories: semiotics, in other words, can only 
exist as a critique of semiotics. The theoretical models of any science, including 
semiotics, are representations. It is because semiotics is the only science 
specifically concerned with the elaboration of a theory (i.e., a formalized 
representation) of representation, Kristeva argues, that it becomes inherently 
self-reflexive. Adopting models and terms from other sciences (preferably from 
the so-called 'hard' sciences which are not caught up in traditional, humanist 
and subjectivist categories), semanalysis nevertheless ceaselessly subverts and 
transforms the meaning of the terms it appropriates. Thus it also becomes 
a critique of other sciences, demonstrating how science is always constructed 
in and through ideology. In this way, semiotics can be said to continue the 
critical tradition first established by Marx. But Marx's critique of political 
economy also constitutes the prototype of 'classical' semiotics, in that Marx 
presents an economy or society (a signified) as a permutation of elements 

Semiotics, however, goes further than Marx, who remained unable to analyse 
production other than from the perspective of the products (social value, 
circulation of goods and of money), in spite of the fact that his own theory 
of use value adumbrates a different mode of analysis: one that focuses on 

Semiotics 75 

production seen 'from the inside'. This perspective, however, was never 
fully grasped by Marx and remained untheorized until Freud showed how 
dreams can be analysed as work, or in other words, as processes. Through 
its appropriation of Freud, semanalysis moves beyond the Marxist prob- 
lematics, while still remaining faithful to its critical, anti-capitalist perspective. 
Thanks to Freud, semiotics is now able to analyse the alterity of its object: 
that 'other scene' where our desires are enacted before they become language, 
communication or product. The paradox of semiotics can here be seen to 
re-emerge (see 'From Symbol to Sign'): semiotics is established as a science 
which seeks to represent that which per definition cannot be represented: the 

Finally, Kristeva argues that although literature as a specific, highly valorized 
category cannot exist for semiotics (it simply becomes one among many forms 
of signifying practices), semiotics can and ought to learn from the modernist 
texts which since the late nineteenth century have perceived themselves as 
production rather than as message or product. The insights gained from work 
on such texts can then be used to analyse what Kristeva calls the social text 
as a series of transformations and/or productive processes. 

Semiotics: A Critical Science and/or 
a Critique of Science 

In a decisive move towards self-analysis, (scientific) discourse today 
has begun to re-examine languages in order to isolate their (its) models 
or patterns. In other words, since social practice (the economy, mores, 
'art', etc.) is envisaged as a signifying system that is 'structured like 
a language', any practice can be scientifically studied as a secondary 
model in relation to natural language, modelled on this language and 
in turn becoming a model or pattern for it. 1 It is in this precise area 
that semiotics today is articulated or rather is searching for its identity. 
We shall attempt to isolate a few of the characteristics which give 
semiotics a precise place in the history of knowledge and ideology, a 
place which makes this kind of discourse a clear register of the cultural 
subversion which our civilization is undergoing. These characteristics 
account for the barely disguised animosity of the bourgeois word (or 
'conscience') in its various guises (ranging from esoteric aestheticism 
to scientific positivism, and from 'liberal' journalism to a restrictive 

76 Linguistics, Semiotics f Textualiiy 

sense of 'commitment') which calls this research 'obscure', 'gratuitous', 
'schematic' or 'impoverishing', when it doesn't actually recuperate the 
lesser by-products of this inquiry by seeing it as a kind of harmless fringe 

Faced with the expansion (and the oppositional nature) of semiotics, 
we must formulate a theory of its evolution that will place it within 
the history of science and thought about science, and link up with 
the epistemological research at present being undertaken seriously 
only in the Marxist work written or inspired by Louis Althusser. The 
following notes are no more than an indication of this necessity. I 
shall therefore say less about the nature of semiotics than about its 

I Semiotics as the making of models 

As soon as we try to define this new form of research, the complexity of 
the problem becomes apparent. For Saussure, who introduced the term 
{Course in General Linguistics, 1916), semiology designated an enormous 
science of signs of which linguistics was only a part. But it soon became 
clear that whatever semiology's sign-object happens to be (gesture, 
sound, image, etc.) it can only be known through language. 2 It follows 
that 'linguistics is not part of the general science of signs, not even a 
privileged part; rather, it is semiology which is part of linguistics, and 
specifically that part responsible for the large signifying units of 
speech'. 3 It is not possible here to discuss the advantages and dis- 
advantages of this significant reversal which itself is destined to be 
modified precisely because of the new openings it has made possible. 4 
Following the example of Jacques Derrida, we shall indicate the scientific 
and ideological limitations which the phonological model risks imposing 
on a science that aims to offer a model for translinguistic practice. But 
we shall none the less retain the fundamental gesture of semiotics: a 
formalization or production of models. 5 Thus, when we say semiotics, 
we mean the (as yet unrealized) development of models, that is, of formal 
systems whose structure is isomorphic or analogous to the structure 
of another system (the system under study). 6 

In other words, by borrowing its models from the formal sciences 
(such as mathematics or logic, which in this way are reduced to being 
a branch of the vast 'science' of language-models), semiotics could even- 
tually become the axiomatization of signifying systems, without being 

Semiotics 77 

hindered by its epistemological dependence on linguistics. The latter 
could then in turn renew itself by adopting these models. 

In this sense, rather than speak of a semiotics, we prefer to talk of 
a semiotic level, which is that of the axiomatization, or formalization, 
of signifying systems. 7 

By defining semiotics as the production of models, however, we not 
only designate its object, but also touch on the characteristic that 
distinguishes it from the other 'sciences'. 8 The models elaborated by 
semiotics, like those of the exact sciences, are representations and, as 
such, are produced within spatio-temporal coordinates. 9 But this is 
where semiotics differs from the exact sciences, for the former is also 
the production of the theory of its own model-making, a theory which 
in principle can accommodate that which does not belong to the order 
of representation. Obviously, a theory is always implicit in the models 
of any science. But semiotics manifests this theory, or rather cannot 
be separated from the theory constituting it, that is, a theory which 
constitutes both its object (the semiotic level of the practice under study) 
and its instruments (the type of model corresponding to a certain semiotic 
structure designated by the theory). In each particular case of semiotic 
research, a theoretical reflection isolates the signifying function being 
axiomatized, which is then represented in a formal manner. (Note that 
this action is synchronic and dialectic, and is only called diachronic in 
order to ease representation.) 

Semiotics is therefore a mode of thought where science sees itself 
as (is conscious of itself as) a theory. At every instant of its produc- 
tion, semiotics thinks of its object, its instruments and the relation 
between them, and in so doing thinks (of) itself: as a result of this reflec- 
tion, it becomes the theory of the very science it constitutes. This means 
that semiotics is at once a re-evaluation of its object and/or of its 
models, a critique both of these models (and therefore of the sciences 
from which they are borrowed) and of itself (as a system of stable truths). 
As the meeting-point of the sciences and an endless theoretical process, 
semiotics cannot harden into a science let alone into the science, 
for it is an open form of research, a constant critique that turns 
back on itself and offers its own auto-critique. As it is its own theory, 
semiotics is the kind of thought which, without raising itself to the 
level of a system, is still capable of modelling (thinking) itself. 

But this reflexive movement is not a circular one. Semiotic research 

78 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

remains a form of inquiry that ultimately uncovers its own ideological 
gesture, only in order to record and deny it before starting all over again. 
'No key to no mystery', as Levi-Strauss said. It begins with a certain 
knowledge as its goal, and ends up discovering a theory which, since 
it is itself a signifying system, returns semiotic research to its point of 
departure, to the model of semiotics itself, which it criticizes or over- 
throws. This tells us that semiotics can only exist as a critique of semiotics, 
a critique which opens on to something other than semiotics, namely 
ideology. Through this method, which Marx was the first to practise, 
semiotics becomes the moment when the history of knowledge breaks 
with the tradition for and in which 

science exhibits itself as a circle returning upon itself, the end being 
wound back into the beginning, the simple ground, by the media- 
tion; this circle is moreover a circle of circles, for each individual 
member as ensouled by the method is reflected into itself, so that 
in returning into the beginning it is at the same time the beginning 
of a new member. Links of this chain are the individual sciences 
(of logic, nature and spirit), each of which has an antecedent and 
a successor - or, expressed more accurately, has only the antecedent 
and indicates its successor in its conclusion. 10 

Semiotic practice breaks with this teleological vision of a science that 
is subordinated to a philosophical system and consequently even destined 
itself to become a system. 1 1 Without becoming a system, the site of 
semiotics, where models and theories are developed, is a place of dispute 
and self-questioning, a 'circle' that remains open. Its 'end' does not 
rejoin its 'beginning', but, on the contrary, rejects and rocks it, opening 
up the way to another discourse, that is, another subject and another 
method; or rather, there is no more end than beginning, the end is a 
beginning and vice versa. 

No form of semiotics, therefore, can exist other than as a critique 
of semiotics. As the place where the sciences die, semiotics is both the 
knowledge of this death and the revival, with this knowledge, of the 
'scientific'; less (or more) than a science, it marks instead the aggressivity 
and disillusionment that takes place within scientific discourse itself. 
We might argue that semiotics is that 'science of ideologies' suggested 
in revolutionary Russia, 12 but it is also an ideology of sciences. 

Such a conception of semiotics does not at all imply a relativism 

Semiotics 79 

or agnostic scepticism. On the contrary, it unites with the scientific 
practice of Marx to the extent that it rejects an absolute system 
(including a scientific one), but retains a scientific approach, that is, 
a development of models doubled by the theory underlying the very 
same models. Created as it is by the constant movement between model 
and theory while at the same time being situated at a distance from 
them (thus taking up a position in relation to current social practice), 
this form of thought demonstrates the 'epistemological break' introduced 
by Marx. 

The status here given to semiotics has consequences for: (1) the specific 
relation of semiotics to the other sciences and especially to linguistics, 
mathematics and logic from whom it borrows its models; and (2) the 
introduction of a new terminology and the subversion of the existing 

The semiotics concerning us here uses linguistic, mathematical and 
logical models and joins them to the signifying practices it approaches. 
This junction is as theoretical as it is scientific, and therefore constitutes 
a profoundly ideological fact which demystifies the exactitude and 
'purity' of the discourse of the so-called 'human' sciences. It subverts 
the exact premises of the scientific process, such that for semiotics, 
linguistics, logic and mathematics are 'subverted premises' which have 
Utile or nothing to do with their status outside semiotics. Far from being 
simply a stock of models on which semiotics can draw, these annexed 
sciences are also the object which semiotics challenges in order to make 
itself into an explicit critique. Mathematical terms such as 'theorem 
of existence' or 'axiom of choice'; terms from physics like 'isotrope'; 
linguistic ones such as 'competence', 'performance', 'generation' or 
'anaphora'; terms from logic such as 'disjunction', 'ortho- 
complementary structure', etc. can acquire a different meaning when 
taken out of the conceptual field in which the retrospective terms were 
conceived and applied to a new ideological subject, such as that of 
contemporary semiotics. Playing on this 'novelty of non-novelty', or 
on the different meanings a term acquires in different theoretical 
contexts, semiotics reveals how science is born in ideology: 'The new 
object may well still retain some link with the old ideological object, 
elements may be found in it which belong to the old object, too: but 
the meaning of these elements changes with the new structure, which 
precisely confers to them their meaning. These apparent similarities 
in isolated elements may mislead a superficial glance unaware of the 

80 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

function of the structure in the constitution of the meaning of the 
elements of an object.' 13 Marx practised this subversion of the terms 
of a preceding science: to the mercantilists, 'surplus- value' 'arises out 
of the addition to the value of the product'. Marx gave the same word 
a new meaning: in so doing he brought to light 'the novelty of the non- 
novelty of a reality which appears in two different discourses, i.e., the 
question of the theoretical modality of this "reality" in two theoretical 
discourses'. 14 But if the semiotic approach provokes this displacement 
of meaning in terms, why use a terminology that already has a strict 

We know that any renewal of scientific thought is carried out by and 
through a renewal of terminology: there is only invention as such when 
a new term appears, be it oxygen or infinitesimal calculus. 'Every new 
aspect of a science involves a revolution in the technical terms 
(Fachausdruckeri) of that science. . . Political economy has generally been 
content to take, just as they were, the terms of commercial and industrial 
life, and to operate with them, entirely failing to see that by so doing, 
it confined itself within the narrow circle of ideas expressed by those 
terms. . .'. 15 As semiotics today regards the capitalist system and its 
accompanying discourse as ephemeral phenomena, it uses terms different 
from those employed by previous discourses in the 'human sciences', 
when it articulates its signifying practices in the course of its critique. 
Semiotics therefore rejects a humanist and subjectivist terminology, and 
addresses itself to the vocabulary of the exact sciences. But, as we have 
indicated above, these terms have another meaning in the new ideological 
field which semiotic research can construct; an alterity to which we shall 
return. The use of terms from the exact sciences does not erase the 
possibility of introducing a completely new terminology, at the most 
crucial points of semiotic research. 

II Semiotics and production 

So far we have -defined the subject of semiotics as a semiotic level, 
as a section through signifying practices where the signifier is taken as 
the model of the signified. This definition in itself suffices in order to 
designate the novelty of the semiotic process in relation to previous 
'human sciences' and to science in general: a novelty by means of which 
semiotics allies itself to Marx's strategy when he presents an economy 
or society (a signified) as a permutation of elements (signifiers). If, sixty 

Semiotics 81 

years after the appearance of the term, we can speak today of a 'classical' 
semiotics, it is precisely because its strategies fall under this definition. 
We none the less feel that we can place ourselves in the opening afforded 
by contemporary thought (Marx, Freud, Husserl) if we define the 
subject of semiotics in the following more subtle way. 

It has already been frequendy stressed that the great novelty of Marxist 
economy was to think of the social as being a particular mode of produc- 
tion. Work ceases to be a subjectivity or an essence of man: Marx replaces 
the concept of 'a supernatural creative power' (Critique of the Gotha 
Programme) with that of * production' viewed in its double mode: as 
a work process, and as the social relations of production whose elements 
make up a combinatoire with its own specific logic. We might say that 
the possible combinations are the different kinds of semiotic systems. 
Marxist thought is therefore the first to pose the problematics of produc- 
tive work as a major element in the definition of a semiotic system. 
This occurs, for example, when Marx explodes the concept of 'value' 
and speaks of it only as a crystallization of social work. 16 He even goes 
so far as to introduce concepts (surplus- value) which owe their existence 
to work that is immeasurable and which themselves are measurable only 
through their effects (the circulation of merchandise, exchange). 

But if Marx sees production as a problematics and a specific structure 
of meaning [combinatoire] that determines the social (or value), it is 
nevertheless studied only from the point of view of the social (value) 
and therefore only in terms of the distribution and circulation of goods, 
and not from the inside of production itself. Marx's work is therefore 
a study of capitalist society, of the laws of exchange and capital. Within 
this space and to this end, work is 'reified' into an object occupying 
a precise place (which, for Marx, is determining) in the process of 
exchange, but which is none the less examined from the angle of this 
exchange. In this way, Marx is led to study work as value, to adopt 
the distinction between use value and exchange value, and while still 
following the laws of capitalist society, to limit himself to a study of 
the latter. Marxist analysis rests on exchange value, that is, on the 
circulating product of work that enters the capitalist system as value ('a 
unit of work'), and it is in this way that Marx analyses its combinatory 
forces (workforce, workers, masters, object of production, instrument 
of production). 

Therefore, when he tackles work itself and distinguishes between the 
different 'work' concepts, he does it from the point of view of circulation: 

82 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

circulation of a utility (in which case work is concrete: 'expenditure of 
human force in such-and-such a productive form, determined by a 
particular fact, and consequently of a concrete and useful nature, pro- 
ducing exchange- values or utilities' 17 ); or circulation of a value (in 
which case work is abstract: 'expenditure of human form in the 
psychological sense'). Let us stress in passing that Marx insists on the 
relativity and historicity of value and above all of exchange value. 
Therefore, when he tries to approach use value, in order to escape 
momentarily from this abstract process of (symbolic) circulation of 
exchange values in a bourgeois economy, Marx is content to indicate 
(and the terms used here are very significant) that it concerns a body 
and an expenditure. 'Use values, that is, the body of goods, are the result 
of a combination of two elements, matter and work. . .Work is not, 
then, the only source of the use values, or material riches it produces. 
It is the father and the earth is the mother. m 'Quite apart from its 
usefulness, all productive activity is ultimately an expenditure of human 
force' (my emphasis). 19 

Marx states the problems clearly: from the point of view of distribution 
and social consumption, or, if you like, of communication, work is always 
a value, be it use value or exchange value. In other words: if, in 
communication, values are always a crystallized form of work, work 
represents nothing outside the value in which it is crystallized. This 
work-value can only be measured by its own value, that is, by the amount 
of social time taken to produce it. 

Such a conception of work, taken out of its space of production, that 
is, a capitalist space, can lead to a valorization of production and provoke 
a pertinent critique from Heideggerian philosophy. 

But Marx clearly outlines another possibility: another space where 
work can be apprehended without any consideration of value, that is, 
beyond any question of the circulation of merchandise. There, on a 
scene where work does not yet represent any value or mean anything, 
our concern is with the relation of a body to expenditure. Marx had neither 
the wish nor the means to tackle this notion of a productive labour prior 
to value or meaning. He gives only a critical description of political 
economy: a critique of the system of exchange of signs (values) that 
hides a work-value. When it is read as a critique, Marx's text on the 
circulation of money is one of the high-points achieved by a (communica- 
tive) discourse that can speak only of measurable communication, which 
exists against a background of production that is merely indicated. In 

Semiotics 83 

this, Marx's critical reflections on the system of exchange resemble the 
contemporary critique of the sign and the circulation of meaning: 
moreover, the critical discourse on the sign acknowledges its similarity 
to the critical discourse on money. Thus, when Derrida opposes his 
theory of writing to the theory of the circulation of signs, he writes of 

This movement of analytical abstraction in the circulation of 
arbitrary signs is quite parallel to that within which money is con- 
stituted. Money replaces things by their signs, not only within a 
society but from one culture to another, or from one economic 
organization to another. That is why the alphabet is commercial, 
a trader. It must be understood within the monetary moment of 
economic rationality. The critical description of money is the faithful 
reflection of the discourse on writing [my emphasis]. 20 

It is the long development of the science of discourse, and of the laws 
of its permutations and annulments, as well as a long meditation on 
the principles and limits of the Logos as a model for the system of 
communication of meaning (value), which has enabled us to create this 
concept of a 'work' that 'means nothing', and of a silent production that 
marks and transforms while remaining prior to all circular 'speech', 
to communication, exchange or meaning. It is a concept that is formed 
by reading, for example, texts such as those by Derrida when he writes 
'trace', 'gramma', 'differance' or 'writing before the letter', while 
criticizing 'sign' and 'meaning'. 

In this development, we must note the masterly contribution made 
by Husserl and Heidegger, but above all by Freud, who was the first 
to think of the work involved in the process of signification as anterior 
to the meaning produced and/or the representative discourse: in other 
words, the dream-process. The chapter-heading from The Interpretation 
of Dreams: 'The Dream- Work', shows how Freud revealed production 
itself to be a process not of exchange (or use) or meaning (value), but 
of playful permutation which provides the very model for production. 
Freud therefore opens up the problematics of work as a particular semiotic 
system, as distinct from that of exchange: this work exists within the 
communicative word but differs essentially from it. On the level of 
manifestation it is a hieroglyph, while on a latent level it is a dream-thought. 
'Dream- work' becomes a theoretical concept that triggers off a new 

84 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

research, one that touches on pre-representative production, and the 
development of 'thinking' before thought. In this new inquiry a radical 
break separates the drzam-work from the work of conscious thought and 
is 'for that reason not immediately comparable with it'. The dream- 
work 'does not think, calculate or judge in any way at all; it restricts 
itself to giving things a new form'. 21 

This seems to encapsulate the whole problem of contemporary 
semiotics: either it continues to formalize the semiotic systems from 
the point of view of communication (in the same way, to risk a brutal 
comparison, that Ricardo regarded surplus-value from the point of 
view of distribution and consumption), or else it opens up to the 
internal problematics of communication (inevitably offered by all social 
problematics) the 'other scene' of the production of meaning prior 
to meaning. 

If we opt for this second route, two possibilities are offered: either 
we isolate a measurable and consequendy representable aspect of the 
signifying system under study against the background of an unmeasurable 
concept (work, production, gramma, trace, differance); or else we try 
to construct a new scientific problematics (in the sense given above of 
a science that is also a theory) to which this new concept necessarily 
must give rise. In other words, the second case involves the construction 
of a new 'science' once a definition has been reached of a new subject: 
work as a different semiotic practice of exchange. 

Several events in the current social and scientific environment justify, 
if not demand, such an endeavour. Irrupting on to the historical scene, 
the world of work claims its rights and protests against the system of 
exchange, demanding that 'knowledge' change its perspective so as to 
transform 'exchange based on production' into 'production regulated 
by exchange'. 

Exact science itself is already tackling the problems of the unpresentable 
and the unmeasurable, as it tries to think of them not as 'deviations' 
from the observable world, but as a structure with special laws. We 
are no longer in the age of Laplace where one believed in a superior 
intelligence that was capable of embracing 'in the same formula the 
movements of the largest bodies and the lightest atoms in the universe: 
nothing would remain unknown to it, and both future and past would be 
present in its eyes'. 22 Quantum mechanics is aware that our discourse 
('intelligence') needs to be 'fractured', and must change objects and 
structures in order to be able to tackle a problematics that can no longer 

Semiotics 85 

be contained within the framework of classical reason. Consequently, 
one talks of the unobserved object 2 * and searches for new logical and 
mathematical models of formalization. The semiotics of production has 
inherited this infiltration of the unrepresentable by scientific thought 
and will no doubt use these models elaborated by the exact sciences 
(polyvalent logic, topology). But since the semiotics of production is 
a science-theory of discourse and so of itself, and since it tends to 
emphasize the dynamics of production over the actual product, it 
consequendy rebels against representation even as it uses representative 
models, and overthrows the very formalization that gives it substance 
with an unstable theory of the unrepresentable and the immeasurable. 
This semiotics of production will therefore accentuate the alterity of its 
object in its relation with the representable and representative object 
of exchange examined by the exact sciences. At the same time it will 
accentuate the upheaval of (exact) scientific terminology by shifting it 
towards that other scene of work that exists prior to value and which 
can only be glimpsed today. 

It is here that semiotic's difficulties he, both for itself and for those 
who wish to come to understand it. It is virtually impossible to com- 
prehend such a semiotics when it poses the problem of a production 
that is not that of communication but which at the same time is con- 
stituted through communication, unless one accepts the radical break 
which separates the problematics of exchange and work. Let us indicate 
just one of the many consequences entailed by such a semiotics: it 
replaces the concept of linear historicity with the necessity of establishing 
a typology of signifying practices from the particular models of the 
production of meaning which actually found them. This approach 
therefore differs from that of traditional historicism, which it replaced 
by a plurality of productions that cannot be reduced to one another 
and even less so to the thought of exchange. Let me stress that I do 
not wish to establish a list of the modes of production: Marx suggested 
this by limiting himself to the point of view of the circulation of goods. 
I ratljer wish to look at the difference between the types of signifying 
production prior to the product (value): oriental philosophies have 
attempted to tackle this from the point of view of work prior to com- 
munication. 24 These kinds of production will perhaps constitute what 
has been called a 'monumental history' to the extent that it literally 
becomes the foundation or background in relation to a 'cursive', 
figurative (teleological) history. 25 

86 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

III Semiotics and 'literature' 

In the field thus defined of semiotics, does 'literary' practice occupy 
a privileged place? 

Literature does not exist for semiotics. It does not exist as an utterance 
\parole] like others and even less as an aesthetic object. It is a particular 
semiotic practice which has the advantage of making more accessible than 
others the problematics of the production of meaning posed by a new 
semiotics, and consequently it is of interest only to the extent that it 
('literature') is envisaged as irreducible to the level of an object for 
normative linguistics (which deals with the codified and denotative word 
[parole]). In this way we can adopt the term of writing when it concerns 
a text seen as a production, in order to distinguish it from the concepts 
of 'literature' and 'speech'. It then becomes apparent that it is thought- 
less if not dishonest to write 'speech [parole] (or writing)', 'spoken (or 
written) language'. 

Seen as a practice, the literary text 

is not assimilable to the historically determined concept of 'litera- 
ture'. (It) implies the overthrow and complete revision of the 
place and effects of this concept ... In other words, the specific 
problematics of writing isolates itself completely from myth and 
representation in order to think (of) itself in its own literality and 
space. The practice must be defined on the level of the 'text' to 
the extent that from now on this word refers to a function that 
writing does not 'express', but rather which it has at its disposal. 
A dramatic economy whose 'geometric place' cannot be represented 
(it is in play). 26 

Any 'literary' text may be envisaged as productivity. Literary history 
since the end of the nineteenth century has given us modern texts which, 
even structurally, perceive themselves as a production that cannot be 
reduced to representation (Joyce, Mallarm6, Lautreamont, Roussel). 
Therefore, a semiotics of production must tackle these texts precisely 
in order to join a scriptural practice concerned with its own production 
to a scientific thought in search of production. And it must do so in 
order to bring out all the consequences of such a confrontation, that 
is, the reciprocal upheavals which the two practices inflict on one another. 

Semiotics 87 

Developed from and in relation to these modern texts the new semiotic 
models then turn to the social text, to those social practices of which 
'literature' is only one unvalorized variant, in order to conceive of them 
as so many ongoing transformations and/or productions. 


1 See Troudy po znadowym sisteman' (Work on signifying systems), vols I, II, III 
(Estonia: University of Tartu, 1965). 

2 'Semiology, sooner or later, is bound to come up against ("true") language, not 
just as a model, but also as a component, relay or signified. ' R. Barthes, 'Elements 
de semiologie', Communications 4. 

3 Loc. cit. 

4 On this point, see the critique of J. Derrida, De la grammatologie (Paris: Minuit, 
1967), p. 75 (Of Grammatology, tr. G. Spivak, Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins 
University Press, 1974, p. 57). 

5 See A. Rosenbluth and W. Wiener, 'The role of models in science', Philosophy 
of Sciences, 12, no. 4 (1945), p. 314. Let us note, in passing, the etymology of the 
word 'model' in order to clarify the concept: lat. modus = measure, melody, mode, 
cadence, suitable limit, moderation, way, manner. 

6 The notion of analogy, which seems to shock the purists, must be taken here in 
the serious sense which Mallarme' defined 'poetically' as follows: 'Herein lies the 
whole mystery: to pair things off and establish secret identities that gnaw at objects 
and wear them away in the name of a central purity.' 

7 'We can say that the semiological is a sort of signifier which, under the control 
of some anagogical level, articulates the symbolic signified and constitutes it within 
a network of different significations.' A. J. Greimas, Semamique structural (Paris: 
Larousse, 1966), p. 60 (Structural Semantics: an attempt at method, Lincoln: Neb.: 
University of Nebraska Press, 1984). 

8 The classical distinction between the natural and human sciences also considers 
the former to be more 'pure' than the latter. 

9 'The model is always a representation. The problem is to know what is represented 
and how the function of representation appears.' G. Frey, 'Symbolische und 
ikonische Modelle', Synthase, 12, no. 2-3 (1960), p. 213. 

10 G. W. F. Hegel, Science of Logic, tr. A. V. Miller (London: Allen & Unwin, 1969), 
p. 842. 

11 'It is here that the content of cognition as such first enters into the circle of considera- 
tion, since, as deduced, it now belongs to the method. The method itself by means 
of this moment expands itself into a system.' Ibid., p. 838. 

12 'The Marxist science of ideologies raises two fundamental problems: 1) the 
problem of the characteristics and forms of the ideological material which is 
organized like a signifying material; 2) the problem of the characteristics and forms 

of the social communication that produces this signification.' P. N. Medvedev, For- 
malnyi metod v literaturovedenci, Kriticheskoie tvedenie v sotsiobgicheskuiu poetiku 
(Leningrad, 1928) (The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, tr. A. J. Wehrle, 

88 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978). We shall return to the 
importance of this distinction. 

13 L. Althusser, Lire le Capital, vol. II (Paris: Maspero, 1966), p. 125 (Reading Capital, 
tr. B. Brewster, London: New Left Books, 1979, p. 157). 

14 Lin le Capital, vol. II, pp. 114-15 (Reading Capital, pp. 149-50). 

15 F. Engels, preface to the English edition of Capital, 1886, vol. I, pp. 4-6 (quoted 
by L. Althusser, Lire le Capital, vol. II, p. 1 12 (Reading Capital, p. 147)). 

16 K. Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (London: Lawrence 
& Wishart, 1971), p. 38. 

17 Capital. 

18 Ibid. 

19 Ibid. 

20 J. Derrida, De la grammatologie (Paris: Minuit, 1967), p. 424 (Of Grammatology, 
tr. G. Spivak, Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974, p. 300). 

21 S. Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, Standard Edition, vol. V (London: Hogarth 
Press, 1953), p. 507. 

22 Laplace, Essai philosophique sur les probability (Paris: Gauthier-Villard, 1921), p. 3. 

23 H. Reichenbach, Philosophic Foundations of Quantum Mechanics (Berkeley, Calif., 
and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1944). 

24 For a trial typology of signifying practices, see Tor a semiology of paragrams', 
in Simewtike: recherches pour une semanalyse (Paris: Seuil, 1969), pp. 174-207, as 
well as 'Distance and antipresentation', Tel Quel, 32, pp. 49-53. 

25 Ph. Sollers, 'Programme , , Tel Quel, 31, reprinted in Logiques (Paris: Seuil, 1968). 

26 Ibid. 

Translated by Sean Hand 

Revolution in Poetic Language 

First published in 1974 as Kristeva's thesis for the French Doctoral d'Etat, 
La Revolution du langage poetique brings together and develops in a more 
systematic fashion many of the themes and concepts which had informed her 
linguistic work right from the first years in Paris. The book thus provides 
us with Kristeva's most fundamental and far-reaching theoretical examination 
of the possibilities of a linguistics focused on the speaking subject. The crucial 
'new' impulse which distinguishes this epochal book from most of her earlier 
linguistic writings is the way in which Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis 
here is presented as the indispensable theoretical starting-point for her explora- 
tions of the signifying process. 

The English-language edition, Revolution in Poetic Language, translated by 
Margaret Waller and published in 1984, contains only the first third of the origi- 
nal French edition and thus presents the reader with Kristeva's general linguistic 
or psycho-linguistic theory, but not with her meticulous exploration of the effects 
of this theory when applied to the textual practice of two early modernist poets, 
Lautrlamont and Mallarme\ In the sections dealing with the poetry, Kristeva 
emphasizes the social, political and historical contexts which allowed these 
writers to let some of dynamic charge of the chora mark their language. 

The chapters reproduced here (1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12) are all taken from 
the first section of the theoretical part of Revolution ('The Semiotic and the 
Symbolic'). Although this choice allows the reader to study the basic Kristevan 
theory of the acquisition of language and the signifying process in some detail, 
it means that her crucial explorations of the concepts of 'negativity' and 
'rejection' contained in Margaret Waller's excellent translation have had to 
be left out. 'Rejection' inscribes negativity, difference and disruption in the 
modern text, and is characteristic of the mobile, unfixed, subversive writing 
subject (le sujet-en-proces - the subject in process/on trial) which re-presents 
itself in these texts. The analysis of negativity, linked to the Freudian and 
Kleinian hypothesis of the existence of a death drive, also provides an important 
point of departure for Kristeva's later work in psychoanalytic theory, as for 
instance in her presentation of 'abjection' in The Powers of Horror (1982). 

90 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

In the selection which follows Kristeva focuses on the signifying process, 
that is to say that she is trying to answer not only the question of exactly how 
language comes to mean (signify), but also the equally important question of 
what it is that resists intelligibility and signification. In this context she develops 
and explores crucial terms such as 'the semiotic', 'the symbolic', the 'thetic', 
the 'chora', 'phenotext' and 'genotext'. There are by now many introductions 
to Kristeva's theories in this book. Philip E. Lewis's early review of the French 
edition of the Revolution remains one of the most helpful presentations of this 
complex text (see 'Revolutionary semiotics', Diacritics, 4 (Fall 1974), 
pp. 28-32). For further bibliographical information, see the general intro- 
duction to this volume. 

Revolution in Poetic Language 


We must specify, first and foremost, what we mean by the signifying 
process vis-a-vis general theories of meaning, theories of language and 
theories of the subject. 

Despite their variations, all modern linguistic theories consider 
language a strictly 'formal' object - one that involves syntax or 
mathematicization. Wtihin this perspective, such theories generally 
accept the following notion of language. For Zellig Harris, language 
is defined by: (a) the arbitrary relation between signifier and signified, 

(2) the acceptance of the sign as a substitute for the extra-linguistic, 

(3) its discrete elements and (4) its denumerable, or even finite, 
nature. 1 But with the development of Chomskyan generative grammar 
and the logico-semantic research that was articulated around and in 
response to it, problems arose that were generally believed to fall within 
the province of 'semantics' or even 'pragmatics', and raised the awkward 
question of the extra linguistic. But language [langage] - modern 
linguistics' self-assigned object 2 - lacks a subject or tolerates one only 
as a transcendental ego (in Husserl's sense or in Benveniste's more 
specifically linguistic sense), 3 and defers any interrogation of its 
(always already dialectical because translinguistic) 'externality'. 

Revolution in Poetic Language 91 

Two trends in current linguistic research do attend to this 'externality' 
in the belief that failure to elucidate it will hinder the development of 
linguistic theory itself. Although such a lacuna poses problems (which 
we will later specify) for 'formal' linguistics, it has always been a 
particular problem for semiotics, which is concerned with specifying 
the functioning of signifying practices such as art, poetry and myth that 
are irreducible to the 'language' object. 

1 The first of these two trends addresses the question of the so-called 
'arbitrary' relation between signifier and signified by examining signi- 
fying systems in which this relation is presented as 'motivated'. It seeks 
the principle of this motivation in the Freudian notion of the unconscious 
in so far as the theories of drives \pulsions] and primary processes 
(displacement and condensation) can connect 'empty signifier s' to 
psychosomatic functionings, or can at least link them in a sequence of 
metaphors and metonymies; though undecidable, such a sequence 
replaces 'arbitrariness' with 'articulation'. The discourse of analysands, 
language 'pathologies' and artistic, particularly poetic, systems are 
especially suited to such an exploration. 4 Formal linguistic relations 
are thus connected to an 'externality' in the psychosomatic realm, which 
is ultimately reduced to a fragmented substance [substance morcelee] (the 
body divided into erogenous zones) and articulated by the developing 
ego's connections to the three points of the family triangle. Such a 
linguistic theory, clearly indebted to the positions of the psychoanalytic 
school of London and Melanie Klein in particular, restores to formal 
linguistic relations the dimensions (instinctual drives) and operations 
(displacement, condensation, vocalic and intonational differentiation) 
that formalistic theory excludes. Yet for want of a dialectical notion 
of the signifying process as a whole, in which signifiance puts the subject 
in process/on trial [en prods], such considerations, no matter how astute, 
fail to take into account the syntactico-semantic functioning of language. 
Although they rehabilitate the notion of the fragmented body - pre- 
Oedipal but always already invested with semiosis - these linguistic 
theories fail to articulate its transitional link to the post-Oedipal subject 
and his always symbolic and/or syntactic language. (We shall return 
to this point.) 

2 The second trend, more recent and widespread, introduces within 
theory's own formalism a 'layer' of semiosis, which had been strictly 
relegated to pragmatics and semantics. By positing a subject of enunciation 
(in the sense of Benveniste, Culioli, etc.), this theory places logical modal 

92 LinguisticSy Semiotics, Textuality 

relations, relations of presupposition and other relations between inter- 
locutors within the speech act, in a very deep 'deep structure'. This 
subject of enunciation, which comes directly from Husserl and Benveniste 
(see n. 3), introduces, through categorial intuition, both semantic fields 
and logical - but also intersubjective - relations, which prove to be both 
intra- and translinguistic. 5 

To the extent it is assumed by a subject who 'means' {bedeuten), 
language has 'deep structures' that articulate categories. These categories 
are semantic (as in the semantic fields introduced by recent developments 
in generative grammar), logical (modality relations, etc.) and inter- 
communicational (those which Searle called 'speech acts' seen as 
bestowers of meaning). 6 But they may also be related to historical 
linguistic changes, thereby joining diachrony with synchrony. 7 In this 
way, through the subject who 'means', linguistics is opened up to all 
possible categories and thus to philosophy, which linguistics had thought 
it would be able to escape. 

In a similar perspective, certain linguists, interested in explaining 
semantic constraints, distinguish between different types of styles 
depending on the speaking subject's position vis-a-vis the utterance. 
Even when such research thereby introduces stylistics into semantics, 
its aim is to study the workings of signification, taking into account 
the subject of enunciation, which always proves to be the phenomeno- 
logical subject. 8 Some linguistic research goes even further: starting 
from the subject of enunciation/transcendental ego, and prompted by 
the opening of linguistics on to semantics and logic, it views signification 
as an ideological and therefore historical production. 9 

We shall not be able to discuss the various advantages and drawbacks 
of this second trend in modern linguistics except to say that it is still 
evolving, and that although its conclusions are only tentative, its 
epistemological bases lead us to the heart of the debate on phenomeno- 
logy which we can only touch on here - and only in so far as the specific 
research we are presently undertaking allows. 10 

To summarize briefly what we shall elucidate later, the two trends 
just mentioned designate two modalities of what is, for us, the same 
signifying process. We shall call the first 'the semiotic y and the second 
'the symbolic\ These two modalities are inseparable within the signifying 
process that constitutes language, and the dialectic between them deter- 
mines the type of discourse (narrative, metalanguage, theory, poetry, 
etc.) involved; in other words, so-called 'natural' language allows for 

Revolution in Poetic Language 93 

different modes of articulation of the semiotic and the symbolic. On 
the other hand, there are non-verbal signifying systems that are con- 
structed exclusively on the basis of the semiotic (music, for example). 
But, as we shall see, this exclusivity is relative, precisely because of 
the necessary dialectic between the two modalities of the signifying 
process, which is constitutive of the subject. Because the subject is always 
both semiotic and symbolic, no signifying system he produces can be 
either 'exclusively' semiotic or 'exclusively' symbolic, and is instead 
necessarily marked by an indebtedness to both. 


We understand the term 'semiotic' in its Greek sense: ormeiov = distinc- 
tive mark, trace, index, precursory sign, proof, engraved or written 
sign, imprint, trace, figuration. This etymological reminder would be 
a mere archaeological embellishment (and an unconvincing one at that, 
since the term ultimately encompasses such disparate meanings) were 
it not for the fact that the preponderant etymological use of the word, 
the one that implies a distinctiveness, allows us to connect it to a precise 
modality in the signifying process. This modality is the one Freudian 
psychoanalysis points to in postulating not only the facilitation and the 
structuring disposition of drives, but also the so-called primary processes 
which displace and condense both energies and their inscription. 
Discrete quantities of energy move through the body of the subject who 
is not yet constituted as such and, in the course of his development, 
they are arranged according to the various constraints imposed on this 
body - always already involved in a semiotic process - by family and 
social structures. In this way the drives, which are 'energy' charges 
as well as 'psychical' marks, articulate what we call a chora: a non- 
expressive totality formed by the drives and their stases in a motility 
that is as full of movement as it is regulated. 

We borrow the term chora 11 from Plato's Timaeus to denote an 
essentially mobile and extremely provisional articulation constituted by 
movements and their ephemeral stases. We differentiate this uncertain 
and indeterminate articulation from a disposition that already depends 
on representation, lends itself to phenomenological, spatial intuition 
and gives rise to a geometry. Although our theoretical description of 
the chora is itself part of the discourse of representation that offers it as 

94 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

evidence, the chora, as rupture and articulations (rhythm), precedes 
evidence, verisimilitude, spatiality and temporality. Our discourse - 
all discourse - moves with and against the chora in the sense that it 
simultaneously depends upon and refuses it. Although the chora can 
be designated and regulated, it can never be definitely posited: as a 
result, one can situate the chora and, if necessary, lend it a topology, 
but one can never give it axiomatic form. 12 

The chora is not yet a position that represents something for someone 
(i.e., it is not a sign); nor is it a position that represents someone for 
another position (i.e., it is not yet a signifier either); it is, however, 
generated in order to attain to this signifying position. Neither model 
nor copy, the chora precedes and underlies figuration and thus 
specularization, and is analogous only to vocal or kinetic rhythm. We 
must restore this motility's gestural and vocal play (to mention only 
the aspect relevant to language) on the level of the socialized body in 
order to remove motility from ontology and amorphousness 13 where 
Plato confines it in an apparent attempt to conceal it from Democritean 
rhythm. The theory of the subject proposed by the theory of the un- 
conscious will allow us to read in this rhythmic space, which has no 
thesis and no position, the process by which signifiance is constituted. 
Plato himself leads us to such a process when he calls this receptacle 
or chora nourishing and maternal, 14 not yet unified in an ordered 
whole because deity is absent from it. Though deprived of unity, identity 
or deity, the chora is nevertheless subject to a regulating process 
[reglementation], which is different from that of symbolic law but never- 
theless effectuates discontinuities by temporarily articulating them and 
then starting over, again and again. 

The chora is a modality of signifiance in which the linguistic sign is 
not yet articulated as the absence of an object and as the distinction 
between real and symbolic. We emphasize the regulated aspect of the 
chora: its vocal and gestural organization is subject to what we shall 
call an objective ordering [ordonnancement], which is dictated by natural 
or socio-historical constraints such as the biological difference between 
the sexes or family structure. We may therefore posit that social organiza- 
tion, always already symbolic, imprints its constraint in a mediated form 
which organizes the chora not according to a law (a term we reserve 
for the symbolic) but through an ordering. 15 What is this mediation? 

According to a number of psycholinguists, 'concrete operations' 
precede the acquisition of language, and organize pre-verbal semiotic 

Revolution in Poetic Language 95 

space according to logical categories, which are thereby shown to precede 
or transcend language. From their research we shall retain not the 
principle of an operational state 16 but that of a pre-verbal functional 
state that governs the connections between the body (in the process 
of constituting itself as a body proper), objects and the protagonists 
of family structure. 17 But we shall distinguish this functioning from 
symbolic operations that depend on language as a sign system - whether 
the language [langue] is vocalized or gestural (as with deaf-mutes). The 
kinetic functional stage of the semiotic precedes the establishment of 
the sign; it is not, therefore, cognitive in the sense of being assumed 
by a knowing, already constituted subject. The genesis of the 
functions 1 * organizing the semiotic process can be accurately elucidated 
only within a theory of the subject that does not reduce the subject to 
one of understanding, but instead opens up within the subject this other 
scene of pre-symbolic functions. The Kleinian theory expanding upon 
Freud's positions on the drives will momentarily serve as a guide. 

Drives involve pre-Oedipal semiotic functions and energy discharges 
that connect and orient the body to the mother. We must emphasize 
that 'drives' are always already ambiguous, simultaneously assimilating 
and destructive; this dualism, which has been represented as a tetrad 19 
or as a double helix, as in the configuration of the DNA and RNA 
molecule, 20 makes the semiotized body a place of permanent scission. 
The oral and anal drives, both of which are oriented and structured 
around the mother's body, 21 dominate this sensorimotor organization. 
The mother's body is therefore what mediates the symbolic law organiz- 
ing social relations and becomes the ordering principle of the semiotic 
chora, 22 which is on the path of destruction, aggressivity and death. 
For although drives have been described as disunited or contradictory 
structures, simultaneously 'positive' and 'negative', this doubling is 
said to generate a dominant 'destructive wave' that is drive's most 
characteristic trait: Freud notes that the most instinctual drive is the 
death drive. 23 In this way, the term 'drive' denotes waves of attack 
against stases, which are themselves constituted by the repetition of 
these charges; together, charges and stases lead to no identity (not even 
that of the 'body proper') that could be seen as a result of their func- 
tioning. This is to say that the semiotic chora is no more than the place 
where the subject is both generated and negated, the place where his 
unity succumbs before the process of charges and stases that produce 
him. We shall call this process of charges and stases a negativity to 

% Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

distinguish it from negation, which is the act of a judging subject. 

Checked by the constraints of biological and social structures, the 
drive charge thus undergoes stases. Drive facilitation, temporarily 
arrested, marks discontinuities in what may be called the various material 
supports [materiaux] susceptible to semiotization: voice, gesture, colours. 
Phonic (later phonemic), kinetic or chromatic units and differences are 
the marks of these stases in the drives. Connections or Junctions are 
thereby established between these discrete marks which are based on 
drives and articulated according to their resemblance or opposition, 
either by slippage or by condensation. Here we find the principles of 
metonymy and metaphor indissociable from the drive economy under- 
lying them. 

Although we recognize the vital role played by the processes of 
displacement and condensation in the organization of the semiotic, we 
must also add to these processes the relations (eventually representable 
as topological spaces) that connect the zones of the fragmented body 
to each other and also to 'external' 'objects' and 'subjects', which are 
not yet constituted as such. This type of relation makes it possible to 
specify the semiotic as a psychosomatic modality of the signifying process; 
in other words, not a symbolic modality but one articulating (in the 
largest sense of the word) a continuum: the connections between the 
(glottal and anal) sphincters in (rhythmic and intonational) vocal modula- 
tions, or those between the sphincters and family protagonists, for 

All these various processes and relations, anterior to sign and syntax, 
have just been identified from a genetic perspective as previous and 
necessary to the acquisition of language, but not identical to language. 
Theory can 'situate' such processes and relations diachronically within 
the process of the constitution of the subject precisely because they 
function synchronically within the signifying process of the subject himself 
i.e., the subject of cogitatio. Only in dream logic, however, have they 
attracted attention, and only in certain signifying practices, such as the 
text, do they dominate the signifying process. 

It may be hypothesized that certain semiotic articulations are trans- 
mitted through the biological code or physiological 'memory' and thus 
form the inborn bases of the symbolic function. Indeed, one branch 
of generative linguistics asserts the principle of innate language univer- 
sals. As it will become apparent in what follows, however, the symbolic 
- and therefore syntax and all linguistic categories - is a social effect 

Revolution in Poetic Language 97 

of the relation to the other, established through the objective constraints 
of biological (including sexual) differences and concrete, historical family 
structures. Genetic programmings are necessarily semiotic: they include 
the primary processes such as displacement and condensation, absorp- 
tion and repulsion, rejection and stasis, all of which function as innate 
preconditions, 'memorizable' by the species, for language acquisition. 
Mallarme' calls attention to the semiotic rhythm within language when 
he speaks of 'The Mystery in Literature' ['Le Mystere dans les lettres'] . 
Indifferent to language, enigmatic and feminine, this space underlying 
the written is rhythmic, unfettered, irreducible to its intelligible verbal 
translation; it is musical, anterior to judgement, but restrained by a 
single guarantee: syntax. As evidence, we could cite 'The Mystery in 
Literature' in its entirety. 24 For now, however, we shall quote only 
those passages that ally the functioning of that 'air or song beneath the 
text' with woman: 

And the instrument of Darkness, whom they have designated, will 
not set down a word from then on except to deny that she must 
have been the enigma; lest she settie matters with a wisk of her 
skirts: 'I don't get it!' 

- They [the critics] play their parts disinterestedly or for a 
minor gain: leaving our Lady and Patroness exposed to show her 
dehiscence or lacuna, with respect to certain dreams, as though 
this were the standard to which everything is reduced. 25 

To these passages we add others that point to the 'mysterious' func- 
tioning of literature as a rhythm made intelligible by syntax: 'Following 
the instinct for rhythms that has chosen him, the poet does not deny 
seeing a lack of proportion between the means let loose and the result. ' 
'I know that there are those who would restrict Mystery to Music's 
domain; when writing aspires to it. ' 26 

What pivot is there, I mean within these contrasts, for intelligi- 
bility? a guarantee is needed - 

Syntax - 

... an extraordinary appropriation of structure, limpid, to the 
primitive lightning bolts of logic. A stammering, what the sentence 
seems, here repressed . . . 

98 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

The debate - whether necessary average clarity deviates in a detail 
- remains one for grammarians. 27 

Our positing of the semiotic is obviously inseparable from a theory 
of the subject that takes into account the Freudian positing of the 
unconscious. We view the subject in language as decentring the trans- 
cendental ego, cutting through it and opening it up to a dialectic in 
which its syntactic and categorical understanding is merely the liminary 
moment of the process, which is itself always acted upon by the relation 
to the other dominated by the death drive and its productive reitera- 
tion of the 'signifier'. We will be attempting to formulate the distinction 
between semiotic and symbolic within this perspective, which was intro- 
duced by Lacanian analysis, but also within the constraints of a practice 
- the text - which is only of secondary interest to psychoanalysis. 


We shall distinguish the semiotic (drives and their articulations) from 
the realm of signification, which is always that of a proposition or 
judgement, in other words, a realm of positions. This positionality, which 
Husserlian phenomenology orchestrates through the concepts of doxa, 
position and thesis, is structured as a break in the signifying process, 
establishing the identification of the subject and its object as precondi- 
tions of propositionality. We shall call this break, which produces the 
positing of signification, a thetic phase. All enunciation, whether of a 
word or of a sentence, is thetic. It requires an identification; in other 
words, the subject must separate from and through his image, from 
and through his objects. This image and objects must first be posited 
in a space that becomes symbolic because it connects the two separated 
positions, recording them or redistributing them in an open com- 
binatorial system. 

The child's first so-called holophrastic enunciations include gesture, 
the object and vocal emission. Because they are perhaps not yet sentences 
(NP-VP), generative grammar is not readily equipped to account for 
them. Nevertheless, they are already thetic in the sense that they separate 
an object from the subject, and attribute to it a semiotic fragment, which 
thereby becomes a signifier. That this attribution is either metaphoric or 
metonymic ('woof-woof says the dog, and all animals become 'woof-woof) 

Revolution in Poetic Language 99 

is logically secondary to the fact that it constitutes an attribution, which 
is to say, a positing of identity or difference, and that it represents the 
nucleus of judgement or proposition. 

We shall say that the thetic phase of the signifying process is the 
'deepest structure' of the possibility of enunciation, in other words, 
of signification and the proposition. Husserl theologizes this deep logic 
of signification by making it a productive origin of the 'free spontaneity' 
of the Ego: 

Its free spontaneity and activity consists in positing, positing on the 
strength of this or that, positing as an antecedent or a consequent, 
and so forth; it does not live within the theses as a passive indweller; 
the theses radiate from it as from a primary source of generation 
[Erzeugungen]. Every thesis begins with a point of insertion [Ein- 
satzpunkt] with a point at which the positing has its origin [ Ursprungs- 
setzung] ; so it is with the first thesis and with each further one 
in the synthetic nexus. This 'inserting' even belongs to the thesis 
as such, as a remarkable modus of original actuality. It somewhat 
resembles the fiat, the point of insertion of will and action. 28 

In this sense, there exists only one signification, that of the thetic phase, 
which contains the object as well as the proposition, and the complicity 
between them. 29 There is no sign that is not thetic and every sign is 
already the germ of a 'sentence' attributing a signifier to an object 
through a 'copula' that will function as a signified. 30 Stoic semiology, 
which was the first to formulate the matrix of the sign, had already 
established this complicity between sign and sentence, making them proofs 
of each other. 

Modern philosophy recognizes that the right to represent the founding 
thesis of signification (sign and/or proposition) devolves upon the 
transcendental ego. But only since Freud have we been able to raise 
the question not of the origin of this thesis but rather of the process 
of its production. To brand the thetic as the foundation of metaphysics 
is to risk serving as an antechamber for metaphysics - unless, that is, 
we specify the way the thetic is produced in our view, the Freudian 
theory of the unconscious and its T strnman development show, precisely, 
that thetic signification is a stage attained under certain precise condi- 
tions during the signifying process, and that it constitutes the subject 
without being reduced to his process precisely because it is the threshold 

100 Linguistics, Semiotics, Texluality 

of language. Such a standpoint constitutes neither a reduction of the 
subject to the transcendental ego, nor a denial [denegation] of the thetic 
phase that establishes signification. 


In the development of the subject, such as it has been reconstituted 
by the theory of the unconscious, we find the thetic phase of the signi- 
fying process, around which signification is organized, at two points: 
the mirror stage and the 'discovery' of castration. 

The first, the mirror stage, produces the 'spatial intuition' which is 
found at the heart of the funtioning of signification - in signs and in 
sentences. From that point on, in order to capture his image unified 
in a mirror, the child must remain separate from it, his body agitated 
by the semiotic motility we discussed above, which fragments him more 
than it unifies him in a representation. According to Lacan, human 
physiological immaturity, which is due to premature birth, is thus what 
permits any permanent positing whatsoever and, first and foremost, 
that of the image itself, as separate, heterogeneous, dehiscent. 31 Capta- 
tion of the image and the drive investment in this image, which institute 
primary narcissism, permit the constitution of objects detached from 
the semiotic chora. Lacan maintains, moreover, that the specular image 
is the 'prototype' for the 'world of objects'. 32 Positing the imaged ego 
leads to the positing of the object, which is, likewise, separate and 

Thus the two separations that prepare the way for the sign are set 
in place. The sign can be conceived as the voice that is projected from 
the agitated body (from the semiotic chord) on to the facing imago or 
on to the object, which simultaneously detach from the surrounding 
continuity. Indeed, a child's first holophrastic utterances occur at this 
time, within what are considered the boundaries of the mirror stage 
(six to eighteen months). On the basis of this positing, which constitutes 
a break, signification becomes established as a digital system with a 
double articulation combining discrete elements. Language-learning can 
therefore be thought of as an acute and dramatic confrontation between 
positing-separating-identifying and the motility of the semiotic chora. 
Separation from the mother's body, the fart-da game, anality and orality, 

Revolution in Poetic Language 101 

all act as a permanent negativity that destroys the image and the isolated 
object even as it facilitates the articulation of the semiotic network, which 
will afterwards be necessary in the system of language where it will be 
more or less integrated as a signifier. 

Castration puts the finished touches on the process of separation that 
posits the subject as signifiable, which is to say, separate, always con- 
fronted by an other: imago in the mirror (signified) and semiotic process 
(signifier). As the addressee of every demand, the mother occupies the 
place of alterity. Her replete body, the receptacle and guarantor of 
demands, takes the place of all narcissistic, hence imaginary, effects and 
gratifications; she is, in other words, the phallus. The discovery of castra- 
tion, however, detaches the subject from his dependence on the mother, 
and the perception of this lack [manque] makes the phallic function a 
symbolic function - the symbolic function. This is a decisive moment 
fraught with consequences: the subject, finding his identity in the sym- 
bolic, separates from his fusion with the mother, confines his jouissance to 
the genital and transfers semiotic motility on to the symbolic order. Thus 
ends the formation of the thetic phase, which posits the gap between 
the signifier and the signified as an opening up towards every desire 
but also every act, including the very jouissance that exceeds them. 33 
At this point we would like to emphasize, without going into the details 
of Lacan's argument, that the phallus totalizes the effects of signifieds 
as having been produced by the signifier: the phallus is itself a signifier. 
In other words, the phallus is not given in the utterance but instead 
refers outside itself to a precondition that makes enunciation possible. 
For there to be enunciation, the ego must be posited in the signified, 
but it must do so as a function of the subject lacking in the signifier; 
a system of finite positions (signification) can only function when it is 
supported by a subject and on the condition that this subject is a want- 
to-be [manque a etre]. lA Signification exists precisely because there is 
no subject in signification. The gap between the imaged ego and drive 
motility, between the mother and the demand made on her, is precisely 
the break that establishes what Lacan calls the place of the Other as 
the place of the 'signifier'. The subject is hidden 'by an ever purer 
signifier', 35 this want-to-be confers on an other the role of containing 
the possibility of signification; and this other, who is no longer the 
mother (from whom the child ultimately separates through the mirror 
stage and castration), presents itself as the place of the signifier that 
Lacan will call 'the Other'. 

102 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

Is this to say, then, that such a theoretical undertaking transcenden- 
talizes semiotic motility, setting it up as a transcendental signifier? In 
our view, this transformation of semiotic motility serves to remove it 
from its auto-erotic and maternal enclosure and, by introducing the 
signifier/signified break, allows it to produce signification. By the same 
token, signification itself appears as a stage of the signifying process 
- not so much its base as its boundary. Signification is placed 'under 
the sign of the pre-conscious'. 36 Ultimately, this signifier/signified 
transformation, constitutive of language, is seen as being indebted to, 
induced and imposed by the social realm. Dependence on the mother 
is severed, and transformed into a symbolic relation to an other, the 
constitution of the Other is indispensable for communicating with an 
other. In this way, the signifier/signified break is synonymous with social 
sanction: 'the first social censorship'. 

Thus we view the thetic phase - the positing of the imago, castration 
and the positing of semiotic motility - as the place of the Other, as 
the precondition for signification, i.e., the precondition for the positing 
of language. The thetic phase marks a threshold between two hetero- 
geneous realms: the semiotic and the symbolic. The second includes 
part of the first and their scission is thereafter marked by the break 
between signifier and signified. Symbolic would seem an appropriate 
term for this always split unification that is produced by a rupture and 
is impossible without it. Its etymology makes it particularly pertinent. 
The ovufioxov is a sign of recognition: an 'object' split in two and the 
parts separated, but, as eyelids do, av^oxov brings together the two 
edges of that fissure. As a result, the 'symbol' is any joining, any bringing 
together that is a contract - one that either follows hostilities or presup- 
poses them - and, finally, any exchange, including an exchange of 

Not only is symbolic, thetk unity divided (into signifier and signified), 
but this division is itself the result of a break that put a heterogeneous 
functioning in the position of signifier. This functioning is the instinctual 
semiotic, preceding meaning and signification, mobile, amorphous, 
but already regulated, which we have attempted to represent through 
references to child psychoanalysis (particularly at the pre-Oedipal stage) 
and the theory of drives. In the speaking subject, fantasies articulate 
this irruption of drives within the realm of the signifier; they disrupt 
the signifier and shift the metonymy of desire, which acts within the 
place of the Other, on to zjouissance that divests the object and turns 

Revolution in Poetic Language 103 

back towards the auto-erotic body. That language is a defensive construc- 
tion reveals its ambiguity - the death drive underlying it. If language, 
constituted as symbolic through narcissistic, specular, imaginary invest- 
ment, protects the body from the attack of drives by making it a place 
- the place of the signifier - in which the body can signify itself through 
positions; and if, therefore, language, in the service of the death drive, 
is a pocket of narcissism towards which this drive may be directed, then 
fantasies remind us, if we had ever forgotten, of the insistent presence 
of drive heterogeneity. 37 

All poetic * distortions' of the signifying chain and the structure of 
signification may be considered in this light: they yield under the attack 
of the 'residues of first symbolizations' (Lacan), in other words, those 
drives that the thetic phase was not able to sublate [relever t aufheben] 
by linking them into signifier and signified. As a consequence, any 
disturbance of the 'social censorship' - that of the signifier /signified 
break - attests, perhaps first and foremost, to an influx of the death 
drive, which no signifier, no mirror, no other and no mother could ever 
contain. In 'artistic' practices the semiotic - the precondition of the 
symbolic - is revealed as that which also destroys the symbolic, and 
this revelation allows us to presume something about its functioning. 

Psychoanalysts acknowledge that the pre-Oedipal stages Melanie Klein 
discusses are 'analytically unthinkable' but not inoperative, and, further- 
more, that the relation of the subject to the signifier is established and 
language-learning is completed only in the pre-genital stages that are 
set in place by the retroaction of the Oedipus complex (which itself brings 
about initial genital maturation). 32 Thereafter, the supposedly 
characteristic functioning of the pre-Oedipal stages appears only in the 
complete, post-genital handling of language, which presupposes, as we 
have seen, a decisive imposition of the phallic. In other words, the 
subject must be firmly posited by castration so that drive attacks against 
the thetic will not give way to fantasy or to psychosis but will instead 
lead to a 'second-degree thetic', i.e., a resumption of the functioning 
characteristic of the semiotic chora within the signifying device of 
language. This is precisely what artistic practices, and notably poetic 
language, demonstrate. 

Starting from and (logically and chronologically) after the phallic 
position and the castration that underlies it - in other words, after the 
Oedipus complex and especially after the regulation of genitality by the 
retroactive effect of the Oedipus complex in puberty - the semiotic 

104 Linguistics t Semiotics, Textuality 

ckora can be read not as a failure of the thetic but instead as its very 
precondition. Neurotics and psychotics are defined as such by their 
relationship to what we are calling the thetic. We now see why, in 
treating them, psychoanalysis can only conceive of semiotic motility 
as a disturbance of language and/or of the order of the signifier. Con- 
versely, the refusal of the thetic phase and an attempt to hypostasize 
semiotic motility as autonomous from the thetic - capable of doing 
without it or unaware of it - can be seen as a resistance to psychoanalysis. 
Some therefore even contend that one can find in poetry the unfolding 
of this refusal of the thetic, something like a direct transcription of the 
genetic code - as if practice were possible without the thetic and as 
if a text, in order to hold together as a text, did not require a completion 
[ftnition], a structuration, a kind of totalization of semiotic motility. This 
completion constitutes a synthesis that requires the thesis of language 
in order to come about, and the semiotic pulverizes it only to make 
it a new device - for us, this is precisely what distinguishes a text as 
signifying practice from the 'drifting-into-non-sense' [derive] that 
characterizes neurotic discourse. The distinction cannot be erased unless 
one puts oneself outside 'monumental history' in a transcendence which 
often proves to be one of the reactionary forces combining that history's 
discrete blocks. 39 

In this way, only the subject, for whom the thetic is not a repression 
of the semiotic chora but instead a position either taken on or undergone, 
can call into question the thetic so that a new disposition may be 
articulated. Castration must have been a problem, a trauma, a drama, 
so that the semiotic can return through the symbolic position it brings 
about. This is the crux of the matter: both the completion of the Oedipus 
complex and its reactivation in puberty are needed for the Aufhebung 
of the semiotic in the symbolic to give rise to a signifying practice that 
has a socio-historical function (and is not just a self-analytical discourse, 
a substitute for the analyst's couch). At the same time, however, this 
completion of the Oedipal stage and the genitality it gives rise to should 
not repress the semiotic, for such a repression is what sets up meta- 
language and the 'pure signifier'. No pure signifier can effect the 
Aufhebung (in the Hegelian sense) of the semiotic without leaving a 
remainder, and anyone who would believe this myth need only question 
his fascination or boredom with a given poem, painting or piece of music. 
As a traversable boundary, the thetic is completely different from an 
imaginary castration that must be evaded in order to return to the 

Revolution in Poetic Language 105 

maternal chora. It is clearly distinct as well from a castration imposed 
once and for all, perpetuating the well-ordered signifier and positing 
it as sacred and unalterable within the enclosure of the Other. 40 


What becomes of signification once the signifier has been posited? 

We have seen that, according to Husserl, signification is a predication 
that necessitates the fundamental thesis of a Dasein, which is essen- 
tially that of the transcendental ego. Whether this predication, or more 
accurately, this judgement, is existential or attributive is - as Freud 
seemed to believe in his article on Verneinung - secondary to its being, 
first and foremost, a positing. But what does it posit, since the semiotic 
chora has been separated from the 'subject' - 'object' continuum? It 
posits an object or a denotatum. Frege calls the utterance of this denotatum 
a Bedeutung (signification), which in this case is denotation. But Frege 's 
departure from Husserl is only apparent. 

For Husserl, the isolation of an object as such is, as we have seen, the 
inseparable and concomitant precondition for the positing of the judging 
Ego, since that Ego's enunciation refers to an object. So much so that, 
as Frege shows, signs can be attributed the same signification by the 
same denotation. But Frege goes further: Doesn't the immense profusion 
of signs, even before denoting objects, imply the very precondition of 
denotation, which is the positing of an object, of the object, of object- 
ness? In other words, denotation would be understood as the subject's 
ability to separate himself from the ecosystem into which he was fused, 
so that, as a result of this separation, he may designate it. Frege writes: 
'If now the truth value of a sentence is its denotation, then on the one 
hand all true sentences have the same denotation and so, on the other 
hand, do all false sentences. From this we see that in the denotation of 
the sentence all that is specific is obliterated.' 41 According to Frege, 
sentences are able to have an object by virtue of their relation to 'concept' 
and to 'thought'; however, although he does not enter into this labyrinth, 
Frege maintains that the stated predication is the logical matrix of 
Bedeutung, which is nevertheless not identical to it. Judgement produces 
Bedeutung but does not enclose it, referring it instead elsewhere, to a 
heterogeneous domain, which is to say, within the existing object. 42 

106 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

By straddling these two 'levels', Frege's Bedeutung, in our view, 
designates, precisely, the break that simultaneously sets up the symbolic 
thesis and an object; as an externality within judgement, it has a truth 
value only by virtue of this scission. We may conclude, therefore, that 
the thetic is the precondition for both enunciation and denotation. 43 If the 
very possibility of such an internal externality is that which founds 
signification's truth capacity, we can understand why Frege suggests 
that there is in fact only one denotation. 44 But denotation is not 
equivalent to the Saussurean referent: Frege posits the existence of signs, 
'artistic' signs, for example, that have no denotation, only meaning, 
because they do not refer to a real object. Therefore one should not 
be concerned with the denotation of a thought or a part of a thought 
taken as a work of art. Yet it must be supposed that the desire to do 
so exists, even with works of art, whenever they include thoughts in 
the form of propositions. The specific status of signification in art thus 
results from a constantly maintained ambiguity between the possibility 
of a meaning that amounts to grammaticahty 45 and a denotation that is, 
likewise, given in the very structure of the judgement or proposition 
but is realized only under certain conditions - notably when predica- 
tion achieved an existential value. 46 But under what conditions does 
predication cease being a copula that is indifferent to the existence of 
an object and obtain instead a denotative value referring to that object? 
Frege does not specify the economy of the signifying act that makes 
enunciation a denotation; but when he speaks of the 'same denotation' 
for all true propositions, he lets us see that the subject's ability to separate 
from the semiotic chora and to designate an object as real lies in the 
thetic function of symbolism. 

The thetic posits the signifiable object: it posits signification as both 
a denotation (of an object) and an enunciation (of a displaced subject, 
absent from the signified and signifying position). From then on, the 
thetic prepares and contains within itself the very possibility of making 
this division explicit through an opposition and a juxtaposition of 
syntagms: the proposition, and judgement as well - to the extent that 
the latter is coexistensive with the proposition - unfold or linearize (by 
concatenation or application) the signification (enunciation + denotation) 
opened up by the thetic. Even if it is presented as a simple act of naming, 
we maintain that the thetic is already prepositional (or syntactic) and 
that syntax is the ex-position of the thetic. The subject and predicate 
represent the division inherent in the thetic; they make it plain and 

Revolution in Poetic Language 107 

actual. But if theory persists in regarding them as independent entities, 
notions of the subject and predicate may end up obscuring not only 
the link between (thetic) signification and syntactic structure, but also 
the complicity and opposition between denotation (given in the subject) 
and enunciation (given in the predicate). 

Therefore we could consider that which has been relegated to the 
terms 'subject' and 'predicate' or, more narrowly, 'noun' and 'verb', 
as two modalities of the thetic, representing the posited and positing, 
linked and linking elements - denotation and enunciation - that are 
indissociable from the thetic process and, consequently, permutable 
or reversible. The positing, linking, assertive, cohesive element, the 
one that completes the utterance and makes it finite (a sentence), in 
short, the element in which the spatio-temporal and communicational 
positing of the speaking subject is marked, is the element with the 
predicative function. It may be, but is not necessarily, what morphology 
identifies as a 'verb'. But at the same time, as Benveniste shows, variable 
predication itself is the 'seat of an invariant' which simultaneously posits 
an extra-linguistic reality [r€el\ and phrastic completion and ensures the 
relation between the two orders. This is, in fact, what we have called 
a thetic function, demonstrating that assertion and intra-syntactic 
completion are inseparable. 

Conceiving the signifying process as a thetic negativity thus leads us 
to relativize the classic terms 'subject* and 'predicate' and see them 
as mere 'subsets' (characteristic of certain languages or linguistic 
theories) of a more general relation which is actually in play between 
two indissociable modalities of the thetic (posited-positing, linked- 
linking, modified-modifier, etc.) The relations between Kurylowicz's 
'modifier' and 'modified', Strawson's 'feature concepts' or 'feature- 
placing statements' or Shauryman's 'application^ generative model' 47 
on a technical linguistic level would also seem to corroborate the in- 
separability of the thetic and syntax. Their indivisibility implies that 
signification (Bedeutung) is a process in which opposable 'terms' are 
posited as phenomena but can be identified as the two faces (denotation- 
enunciation) of the thetic break. 48 

Syntax registers the thetic break as an opposition of discrete and 
permutable elements but whose concrete position nevertheless indicates 
that each one has a definite signification. Syntax displaces and represents, 
within the homogeneous element of language, the thetic break separating 
the signifier from what was heterogeneous to it. The transformation [from 

108 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

drive to signifier] produced by the thetic is registered only as an inter- 
syntactical division (modified-modifier, 'feature-placing' or subject- 
predicate). This transformation, which produced the speaking subject, 
comes about only if it leaves that subject out, within the heterogeneous. 
Indeed, although he is the bearer of syntax, the speaking subject is absent 
from it. 

But when this subject re-emerges, when the semiotic chora disturbs 

the thetic position by redistributing the signifying order, we note that 

the denoted object and the syntactic relation are disturbed as well. The 

denoted object proliferates in a series of connoted objects produced by 

the transposition of the semiotic chora 49 and the syntactic division 

(modified-modifier, NP-VP or the placement of semantic features) is 

disrupted. In the latter aspect of the signifying process - syntax - we 

note that the division of the grammatical sequence (which we have called 

the transposition of the thetic break into a homogeneous sign-system) 

is maintained; this means that syntactic categories, which ensure the 

possibility of both verisimilar denotation and communication, are also 

preserved. But the completion of the grammatical sequence does not take 

place because the division is not completely rejoined in a NP-VP, 

modified-modifier, etc. whole. This ellipsis or syntactic non-completion 

can be interpreted as the thetic break's inability to remain simply intra- 

syntactic - a division within a signifying homogeneity. A heterogeneous 

division, an irruption of the semiotic chora, marks each 'category' of 

the syntactic sequence and prevents the 'other' from being posited as 

an identifiable syntactic term (subject or predicate, modified or modifier, 

etc.). In this realization of the signifier, particularly as it is seen in poetic 

texts, alterity is maintained within the pure signifier and/or in the simply 

syntactic element only with difficulty. For the Other has become 

heterogeneous and will not remain fixed in place: it negativizes all terms, 

all posited elements and thus syntax, threatening them with possible 


It should be understood that the path completed by the text is not 
a simple return, as in the Hegelian dialectic, from the 'predicate' to 
the 'subject', from the 'general' to the 'particular'; it does not con- 
stitute a Hegelian synthesis operating in judgement and realized in the 
syllogism. Instead it involves both shattering and maintaining position 
within the heterogeneous process: the proof can be found in the phonetic, 
lexical and syntactic disturbance visible in the semiotic device of the 
text. 50 The disturbance of sentential completion or syntactic ellipsis 

Revolution in Poetic Language 109 

lead to an infinitization of logical (syntactic) applications. Terms are 
linked together but, as a consequence of non-recoverable deletion, 51 
they are linked ad infinitum. The sentence is not suppressed, it is 
infinitized. Similarly, the denoted object does not disappear, it proliferates 
in mimetic, fictional, connoted objects. 


Signification in literature implies the possibility of denotation. But 
instead of following denotative sequences, which would lead, from one 
judgement to another, to the knowledge of a real object, literary significa- 
tion tends towards the exploration of grammaticality and/or towards 
enunciation. Mimesis is, precisely, the construction of an object, not 
according to truth but to verisimilitude, to the extent that the object is 
posited as such (hence separate, noted but not denoted); it is, however, 
internally dependent on a subject of enunciation who is unlike the 
transcendental ego in that he does not suppress the semiotic chora but 
instead raises the chora to the status of a signifier, which may or may 
not obey the norms of grammatical locution. Such is the connoted mimetic 

Although mimesis partakes of the symbolic order, it does so only to 
re-produce some of its constitutive rules, in other words, grammaticality. 
By the same token, it must posit an object, but this 'object' is merely 
a result of the drive economy of enunciation; its true position is 
inconsequential. 53 What is more when poetic language - especially 
modern poetic language - transgresses grammatical rules, the positing 
of the symbolic (which mimesis has always explored) finds itself 
subverted, not only in its possibilities of Bedeutung or denotation (which 
mimesis has always contested), but also as a possessor of meaning (which 
is always grammatical, indeed more precisely, syntactic). In imitating 
the constitution <yf the symbolic as meaning, poetic mimesis is led to 
dissolve not only the denotative function but also the specifically thetic 
function of positing the subject. In this respect modern poetic language 
goes further than any classical mimesis - whether theatrical or novelistic 
- because it attacks not only denotation (the positing of the object) but 
meaning (the positing of the enunciating subject) as well. 

In thus eroding the verisimilitude that inevitably underlaid classical 
mimesis and, more importantly, the very position of enunciation (i.e., 

110 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

the positing of the subject as absent from the signifier), poetic language 
puts the subject in process/on trial through a network of marks and 
semiotic facilitations. But the moment it stops being mere instinctual 
glossolalia and becomes part of the linguistic order, poetry meets up 
with denotation and enunciation - verisimilitude and the subject - and, 
through them, the social. 

We now understand how the thetic conditions the possibilities of truth 
specific to language: all transgressions of the thetic are a crossing of 
the boundary between true and false - maintained, inevitably, whenever 
signification is maintained, and shaken, irremediably, by the flow of 
the semiotic into the symbolic. Mimesis, in our view, is a transgres- 
sion of the thetic when truth is no longer a reference to an object that 
is identifiable outside language; it refers instead to an object that can 
be constructed through the semiotic network but is nevertheless posited 
in the symbolic and is, from then on, always verisimilar. 

Mimetic verisimilitude does not, therefore, eliminate the unique break 
Frege saw presiding over signification. Instead it maintains that break 
because it preserves meaning and, with it, a certain object. But neither 
true nor false, the very status of this verisimilar object throws into 
question the absoluteness of the break that establishes truth. Mimesis 
does not actually call into question the unicity of the thetic; indeed it 
could not, since mimetic discourse takes on the structure of language 
and, through narrative sentences, posits a signified and signifying object. 
Mimesis and the poetic language inseparable from it tend, rather, to 
prevent the thetic from becoming theological; in other words, they 
prevent the imposition of the thetic from hiding the semiotic process 
that produces it, and they bar it from inducing the subject, reified as 
a transcendental ego, to function solely within the systems of science 
and monotheistic religion. 

To note that there can be no language without a thetic phase that 
establishes the possibility of truth, and to draw consequences from this 
discovery, is quite a different matter from insisting that every signify- 
ing practice operate uniquely out of the thetic phase. For this would 
mean that the thetic, as origin and transcendence, could only produce 
(in the Husserlian sense) a tautological discourse, which, having 
originated in a thesis, can only be a synthesis of theses. We maintain 
therefore that science and theological dogma are doxic. By repressing 
the production of doxy, they make the thetic a belief from which the 
quest for truth departs; but the path thus programmed is circular and 

Revolution in Poetic Language 111 

merely returns to its thetic point of departure. 54 If mimesis, by con- 
trast, pluralizes denotation, and if poetic language undermines meaning, 
by what specific operations are these corruptions of the symbolic 
carried out? 

As we know, Freud specifies two fundamental 'processes' in the work 
of the unconscious: displacement and condensation. Kruszewski and 
Jakobson 55 introduced them, in a different way, during the early 
stages of structural linguistics, through the concepts of metonymy and 
metaphor, which have since been interpreted in light of 
psychoanalysis. 56 

To these we must add a third 'process' - the passage from one sign- 
system to another. To be sure, this process comes about through a com- 
bination of displacement and condensation, but this does not account 
for its total operation. It also involves an altering of the thetic position 
- the destruction of the old position and the formation of a new one. 
The new signifying system may be produced with the same signifying 
material; in language, for example, the passage may be made from 
narrative to text. Or it may be borrowed from different signifying 
materials: the transposition from a carnival scene to the written text, 
for instance. In this connection we examined the formation of a specific 
signifying system - the novel - as the result of a redistribution of several 
different sign-systems: carnival, courtly poetry, scholastic discourse 57 . 
The term intertexiuality denotes this transposition of one (or several) 
sign-system(s) into another; but since this term has often been 
understood in the banal sense of 'study of sources', we prefer the term 
transposition because it specifies that the passage from one signifying 
system to another demands a new articulation of the thetic - of enun- 
ciative and denotative positionality . If one grants that every signifying 
practice is a field of transpositions of various signifying systems (an 
intertextuality), one then understands that its 'place' of enunciation and 
its denoted 'object' are never single, complete and identical to 
themselves, but always plural, shattered, capable of being tabulated. 
In this way polysemy can also be seen as the result of a semiotic 
polyvalence - an adherence to different sign-systems. 

Along with condensation (Verdichtung) and displacement 
(Verschiebung), Freud also speaks of considerations ofrepresentability (die 
Rucksicht auf Darstellbarkeit), which are essential to dream- work (die 
Traumarbeit). Representability comes about through a process, closely 
related to displacement but appreciably different from it, that Freud 

112 Linguistics, Semiotics y Textuality 

calls 'ein Vertauschung des sprachlichen Ausdruckes'. We shall call 
transposition the signifying process' ability to pass from one sign-system 
to another, to exchange and permutate them, and representability the 
specific articulation of the semiotic and the thetic for a sign-system. 
Transposition plays an essential role here inasmuch as it implies the 
abandonment of a former sign-system, the passage to a second via an 
instinctual intermediary common to the two systems and the articula- 
tion of the new system with its new representability. 58 

Poetic mimesis maintains and transgresses thetic unicity by making 
it undergo a kind of anamnesis, by introducing into the thetic position 
the stream of semiotic drives and making it signify. 59 This telescoping 
of the symbolic and the semiotic pluralizes signification or denotation: 
it pluralizes the thetic doxy. Mimesis and poetic language do not 
therefore disavow the thetic, instead they go through its truth (significa- 
tion, denotation) to tell the 'truth' about it. To be sure, the latter use 
of the term 'truth' is inappropriate, since it no longer refers to denotative 
truth in Frege's sense. This 'second truth' reproduces the path which 
was cleared by the first truth (that of Bedeutung) in order to posit itself. 
Both mimesis and poetic language with its connotations assume the right 
to enter into the social debate, which is an ideological debate, on the 
strength of their confrontation with Bedeutung (signification and denota- 
tion) but also with all meaning, and hence all enunciation produced 
by a posited subject. 

But mimesis and poetic language do more than engage in an intra- 
ideological debate; they question the very principle of the ideological 
because they unfold the unicity of the thetic (the precondition for 
meaning and signification) and prevent its theologization. As the place 
of production for a subject who transgresses the thetic by using it as 
a necessary boundary - but not as an absolute or as an origin - poetic 
language, and the mimesis from which it is inseparable, are profoundly 
a-theological. They are not critics of theology but rather the enemy 
within and without, recognizing both its necessity and its pretensions. 
In other words, poetic language and mimesis may appear as an argument 
complicitous with dogma - we are farniliar with religion's use of them 
- but they may also set in motion what dogma represses. In so doing, 
they no longer act as instinctual floodgates within the enclosure of the 
sacred and become instead protestors against its posturing. And thus, 
its complexity unfolded by its practices, the signifying process joins 
social revolution. 

Revolution in Poetic Language 113 


The thetic permits the constitution of the symbolic with its vertical 
stratification (referent, signified, signifier) and all the subsequent 
modalities of logico-semantic articulation. The thetic originates in the 
'mirror stage' and is completed, through the phallic stage, by the re- 
activation of the Oedipus complex in puberty; no signifying practice 
can be without it. Though absolutely necessary, the thetic is not 
exclusive: the semiotic, which also precedes it, constantly tears it open, 
and this transgression brings about all the various transformations of 
the signifying practice that are called 'creation'. Whether in the realm 
of metalanguage (mathematics, for example) or literature, what remodels 
the symbolic order is always the influx of the semiotic. This is particu- 
larly evident in poetic language since, for there to be a transgression 
of the symbolic, there must be an irruption of the drives in the universal 
signifying order, that of 'natural' language which binds together the 
social unit. That the subject does not vanish into psychosis when this 
transgression takes place poses a problem for metaphysics, both the 
kind that sets up the signifier as an untransgressable law and the kind 
for which there exists no thetic and therefore no subject. 

The semiotic 's breach of the symbolic in so-called poetic practice can 
probably be ascribed to the very unstable yet forceful positing of the 
thetic. In our view, the analysis of texts shows that thetic liability is 
ultimately a problem with imaginary captation (disorders in the mirror 
stage that become marked scopophilia, the need for a mirror or an identi- 
fying addressee, etc.) and a resistance to the discovery of castration 
(thereby maintaining the phallic mother who usurps the place of the 
Other). These problems and resistances obstruct the thetic phase of the 
signifying process. When they fail to prevent the constitution of the 
symbolic (which would result in psychosis), they return in and through its 
position. In so doing, they give rise to 'fantasies'; more importantly, they 
attempt to dissolve the first social censorship - the bar between signifier 
and signified - and, simultaneously, the first guarantee of the subject's 
position - signification, then meaning (the sentence and its syntax). 
Language thus tends to be drawn out of its symbolic function (sign- 
syntax) and is opened out within a semiotic articulation; with a material 
support such as the voice, this semiotic network gives 'music ' to literature. 

114 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

But the irruption of the semiotic within the symbolic is only relative. 
Though permeable, the thetic continues to ensure the position of the 
subject put in process/on trial. As a consequence, musicality is not 
without signification; indeed it is deployed within it. Logical synthesis 
and all ideologies are present, but they are pulverized within their own 
logic before being displaced towards something that is no longer within 
the realm of the idea, sign, syntax and thus Logos, but is instead simply 
semiotic functioning. The precondition for such a heterogeneity that 
alone posits and removes historical meaning is the thetic phase: we 
cannot overemphasize this point. 

Without the completion of the thetic phase, we repeat, no signifying 
practice is possible; the negation/denial [denigation] of this phase leads 
the subject to shift the thetic, even though he is determined by it, on 
to one of the places that the signifying process must cross on its way 
to fulfilment. Negating or denying the symbolic, without which he would 
be incapable of doing anything, the subject may imagine the thetic at 
the place of an object or a partner. This is a fetishist mechanism, which 
consists in denying the mother's castration, but perhaps goes back even 
further to a problem in separating an image of the ego in the mirror 
from the bodily organs invested with semiotic motility. Negation-as- 
denial ( Verneimmg) or disavowal (Yerleugnung) in perversion, which may 
go so far as the foreclosure {Verwerfung) of the thetic phase, represent 
different modalities capable of obscuring castration and the sexual 
difference underlying it as well as genital sexuality. Further on we shall 
see how a marked investment in anal eroticism leads to this rejection 
of the thetic because it allows a questioning of the symbolic order; but 
by this very process it shifts the thesis onto objects. The prototype of 
such objects is excrement since it is midway between an auto-erotic body, 
which is not yet autonomous from its eroticized sphincters, and the 
pleasure the mother's body or her supposed phallus would procure - 
a belief that is disclaimed but maintained, behind, as a compromise. 

Since there can be no signifying practice without a thetic phase, the 
thetic that does not manage to posit itself in the symbolic order neces- 
sarily places itself in the objects surrounding the body and instinctually 
linked to it. Fetishism is a compromise with the thetic; although erased 
from the symbolic and displaced on to the drives, a 'thesis' is never- 
theless maintained so that signifying practice can take place. Therefore 
we shall contend that it is the thetic, and not fetishism, that is inherent 
in every cultural production, because fetishism is a displacement of thetic 

Revolution in Poetic Language 115 

on to the realm of drives. The instinctual chora articulates facilitations 
and stases, but fetishism is a telescoping of the symbolic's characteristic 
thetic moment and of one of those instinctually invested stases (bodies, 
parts of bodies, orifices, containing objects, and so forth). This stasis 
thus becomes the ersatz of the sign. Fetishism is a stasis that acts as 
a thesis. 

We might then wonder whether the semiotic's dismantling of the 
symbolic in poetry necessarily implies that the thetic phase is shifted 
towards the stases of the semiotic chora. Doesn't poetry lead to the 
establishment of an object as a substitute for the symbolic order under 
attack, an object that is never clearly posited but always 'in 
perspective'? 60 The object may be either the body proper or the appa- 
ratuses erotized during vocal utterance (the glottis, the lungs), objects 
that are either linked to the addressee of desire or to the very material 
of language as the predominant object of pleasure. Moreover, since the 
symbolic is corrupted so that an object - the book, the work - will 
result, isn't this object a substitute for the thetic phase? Doesn't it take 
the thetic 's place by making its symbolicity opaque, by filling the thetic 
with its presence whose pretension to universality is matched only by 
its very finite limits? In short, isn't art the fetish par excellence, one 
that badly camouflages its archaeology? At its base, isn't there a belief, 
ultimately maintained, that the mother is phallic, that the ego - never 
precisely identified - will never separate from her, and that no symbol 
is strong enough to sever this dependence? In this symbiosis with the 
supposedly phallic mother, what can the subject do but occupy her place, 
thus navigating the path from fetishism to auto-eroticism? That indeed 
is the question. 

In order to keep the process signifying, to avoid foundering in an 
'unsayable' without limits, and thus posit the subject of a practice, the 
subject of poetic language clings to the help fetishism offers. And so, 
according to psychoanalysis, poets as individuals fall under the category 
of fetishism; the very practice of art necessitates reinvesting the maternal 
chora so that it transgresses the symbolic order; and, as a result, this 
practice easily lends itself to so-called perverse subjective structures. For 
all these reasons, the poetic function therefore converges with fetishism; 
it is not, however, identical to it. What distinguishes the poetic function 
from the fetishist mechanism is that it maintains a signification (Bedeutung) . 
All its paths into, indeed valorizations of, pre-symbolic semiotic stases 
not only require the ensured maintenance of this signification but also 

116 Linguistics , Semiotics, Textuality 

serve signification, even when they dislocate it. No text, no matter how 
'musicalized', is devoid of meaning or signification; on the contrary, 
musicalization pluralizes meanings. We may say therefore that the text 
is not a fetish. It is, moreover, just like 'natural' language in this regard, 
if the abstract word is thought of as a correlate for the fetish in primitive 
societies. The text is completely different from a fetish because it signifies; 
in other words, it is not a substitute but a sign (signifier/signified), and 
its semantics is unfurled in sentences. 61 The text signifies the un- 
signifying: it assumes [releve] within a signifying practice this functioning 
(the semiotic), which ignores meaning and operates before meaning or 
despite it. Therefore it cannot be said that everything signifies, nor that 
everything is 'mechanistic'. In opposition to such dichotomies, whether 
'materialist' or 'metaphysical', the text offers itself as the dialectic of 
two heterogeneous operations that are, reciprocally and inseparable, 
preconditions for each other. 62 

We understand, then, that this heterogeneity between the semiotic 
and the symbolic cannot be reduced to computer theory's well-known 
distinction between 'analog' and 'digital'. 63 An analog computer is 
defined as any device that ' 'computes" by means of an analog between 
real, physical, continuous quantities and some other set of variables', 
whereas the digital computer presupposes 'discrete elements and discon- 
tinuous scales'. 64 Certain linguists have wanted to transpose this 
distinction - which arose with the development of computers and 
perhaps applies to 'natural' codes (nerve cell codes or animal com- 
munication, for example) - on to the functioning of language. But in 
making this transposition, one quickly forgets not only that language 
is simultaneously 'analog' and 'digital' but that it is, above all, a doubly 
articulated system (signifier and signified), which is precisely what 
distinguishes it from codes. We therefore maintain that what we call 
the semiotic can be described as both analog and digital: the functioning 
of the semiotic chora is made up of continuities that are segmented in 
order to organize a digital system as the chord's guarantee of survival 
(just as digitality is the means of survival both for the living cell and 
society); 65 the stases marked by the facilitation of the drives are the 
discrete elements in this digital system, indispensable for maintaining 
the semiotic chora. 

Yet this description (which itself is possible only on the basis of a 
highly developed symbolic system) does not account for what produces 
the qualitative leap between a code and a double articulation. 66 But this 

Revolution in Poetic Language 117 

essential phase is precisely what we are examining when we distinguish 
between the semiotic and the symbolic, and when we assign the thetic 
phase the role of boundary between the two heterogeneous domains. 
Because of the human being's prematurity, his semiotic 'code' is cut 
off from any possible identification unless it is assumed by the other 
(first the mother, then the symbolic and/or the social group). Making 
the analog digital is thus not enough to ensure our bodily survival 
because it cannot check the drives' endless facilitations. An alteration 
must be made, making the other the regulator between the semiotic chora 
and the totality called the ecosystem. This alteration makes it possible 
to gather together the analog and digital 'code' and, through a break 
prepared by the mirror stage posit it as unified, mastered, dominated 
and in another space - imaginary, representational, symbolic. Through 
this alteration, the 'code' leaves the place of the body and the eco- 
system and, freed from their constraints, acquires the variability 
characteristic of a system of 'arbitrary' signs - human language - the 
later development of which forms the immense edifice of signifying 

The semiotic (analog and digital) thereby assumes the role of a linguistic 
signifier signifying an object for an ego, thus constituting them both as 
thetic. Through its thetic, altering aspect, the signifier represents the 
subject - not the thetic ego but the very process by which it is posited. 
A signifier indebted in this manner to semiotic functioning tends to 
return to it. In all its various vacillations, the thetic is displaced towards 
the stages previous to its positing or within the very stases of the 
semiotic - in a particular element of the digital code or in a particular 
continuous portion of the analog code. These movements, which can 
be designated as fetishism, show (human) language's characteristic 
tendency to return to the (animal) code, thereby breaching what Freud 
calls a 'primal repression'. The thetic - that crucial place on the basis 
of which the human being constitutes himself as signifying and/or social 
- is the very place textual experience aims towards. In this sense, 
textual experience represents one of the most daring explorations the 
subject can allow himself, one that delves into his constitutive process. 
But at the same time and as a result, textual experience reaches the 
very foundation of the social - that which is exploited by sociality 
but which elaborates and can go beyond it, either destroying or trans- 
forming it. 

118 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 


Once the break instituting the symbolic has been established, what we 

have called the semiotic chora acquires a more precise status. Although 

originally a precondition of the symbolic, the semiotic functions within 

signifying practices as the result of a transgression of the symbolic. 

Therefore the semiotic that 'precedes' symbolization is only a theoretical 

supposition justified by the need for description. It exists in practice only 

within the symbolic and requires the symbolic break to obtain the 

complex articulation we associate with it in musical and poetic practices. 

In other words, symbolization makes possible the complexity of this 

semiotic combinatorial system, which only theory can isolate as 

'preliminary' in order to specify its functioning. Nevertheless, the 

semiotic is not solely an abstract object produced for the needs of theory. 

As a precondition of the symbolic, semiotic functioning is a fairly 

rudimentary combinatorial system, which will become more complex 

only after the break in the symbolic. It is, however, already put in place 

by a biological set-up and is always already social and therefore historical. 

This semiotic functioning is discernible before the mirror stage, before 

the first suggestion of the thetic. But the semiotic we fmd in signifying 

practices always comes to us after the symbolic thesis, after the symbolic 

break, and can be analysed in psychoanalytic discourse as well as in 

so-called 'artistic* practice. One could not, then, limit oneself to 

representing this semiotic functioning as simply 'analog' or 'digital' or 

as a mere scattering of traces. The thetic gathers up these facilitations 

and instinctual semiotic stases within the positing of signifiers, then 

opens them out in the three-part cluster of referent, signified and 

signifier, which alone makes the enunciation of a truth possible. In taking 

the thetic into account, we shall have to represent the semiotic (which 

is produced recursively on the basis of that break) as a 'second' return 

of instinctual functioning within the symbolic, as a negativity introduced 

into the symbolic order and as the transgression of that order. 

This transgression appears as a breach [effraction] subsequent to the 
thetic phase, which makes that phase negative and tends to fuse the 
layers of signifier/signified/referent into a network of traces, following 
the facilitation of the drives. Such a breach does not constitute a positing. 
It is not at all thetic, nor is it an Aufhebung of 'original doxy' through 
a synthesizing spiral movement and within the pursuit of the exhaustion 

Revolution in Poetic Language 119 

of truth undertaken by Hegelian absolute knowledge. On the contrary, 
the transgression breaks up the thetic, splits it, fills it with empty spaces 
and uses its device only to remove the 'residues of first symbolizations' 
and make them 'reason' ['raisonner'] within the symbolic chain. This ex- 
plosion of the semiotic in the symbolic is far from a negation of negation, 
an Aufhebung that would suppress the contradiction generated by the 
thetic and establish in its place an ideal positivity, the restorer of pre- 
symbolic immediacy. 67 It is, instead, a transgression of position, a 
reversed reactivation of the contradiction that instituted this very position. 

The proof is that this negativity has a tendency to suppress the thetic 
phase, to de-syn-thesize it. In the extreme, negativity aims to foreclose 
the thetic phase, which, after a period of explosive semiotic motility, 
may result in the loss of the symbolic function, as seen in schizophrenia. 

'Art', on the other hand, by definition, does not relinquish the thetic 
even while pulverizing it through the negativity of transgression. Indeed, 
this is the only means of transgressing the thetic, and the difficulty of 
maintaining the symbolic function under the assault of negativity 
indicates the risk that textual practice represents for the subject. What 
had seemed to be a process of fetishizing inherent in the way the text 
functions now seems a structurally necessary protection, one that serves 
to check negativity, confine it within stases and prevent it from sweeping 
away the symbolic position. 

The regulation of the semiotic in the symbolic through the thetic break, 
which is inherent in the operation of language, is also found on the 
various levels of a society's signifying edifice. In all known archaic 
societies, this founding break of the symbolic order is represented by 
murder - the killing of a man, a slave, a prisoner, an animal. Freud 
reveals this founding break and generalizes from it when he emphasizes 
that society is founded on a complicity in the common crime. 68 We 
indicated earlier how language, already as a semiotic chora but above 
all as a symbolic system, is at the service of the death drive, diverts 
it and confines it as if within an isolated pocket of narcissism. The social 
order, for its part, reveals this confinement of the death drive, whose 
endless course conditions and moves through every stasis and thus every 
structure, in an act of murder. Religions, as we know, have set them- 
selves up as specialists on the discourse concerning this radical, unique, 
thetic event. 
Opposite religion or alongside it, 'art' takes on murder and moves 

120 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

through it. It assumes murder in so far as artistic practice considers 

death the inner boundary of the signifying process. Crossing that 

boundary is precisely what constitutes 'art'. In other words, it is as if 

death becomes interiorized by the subject of such a practice; in order 

to function, he must make himself the bearer of death. In this sense, 

the artist is comparable to all other figures of the 'scapegoat'. But he 

is not just a scapegoat; in fact, what makes him an artist radically 

distinguishes him from all other sacrificial murderers and victims. 69 

In returning, through the event of death, towards that which produces 

its break; in exporting semiotic motility across the border on which 

the symbolic is established, the artist sketches out a kind of second birth. 

Subject to death but also to rebirth, his function becomes harnessed, 

immobilized, represented and idealized by religious systems (most 

explicidy by Christianity), which shelter him in their temples, pagodas, 

mosques and churches. Through themes, ideologies and social meanings, 

the artist introduces into the symbolic order an asocial drive, one not 

yet harnessed by the thetic. When this practice, challenging any 

stoppage, comes up, in its turn, against the produced object, it sets 

itself up as a substitute for the initially contested thetic, thus giving 

rise to the aesthetic fetishism and narcissism supplanting theology. 


In light of the distinction we have made between the semiotic chora 
and the symbolic, we may now examine the way texts function. What 
we shall call a genotext will include semiotic processes but also the advent 
of the symbolic. The former includes drives, their disposition and their 
division of the body, plus the ecological and social system surrounding 
the body, such as objects and pre-Oedipal relations with parents. The 
latter encompasses the emergence of object and subject, and the consti- 
tution of nuclei of meaning involving categories: semantic and categorial 
fields. Designating the genotext in a text requires pointing out the 
transfers of drive energy that can be detected in phonematic devices 
(such as the accumulation and repetition of phonemes or rhyme) and 
melodic devices (such as intonation or rhythm), in the way semantic 
and categorial fields are set out in syntactic and logical features, or in 
the economy of mimesis (fantasy, the deferment of denotation, narrative, 
etc.). The genotext is thus the only transfer of drive energies that 

Revolution in Poetic Language 121 

organizes a space in which the subject is not yet a split unity that will 
become blurred, giving rise to the symbolic. Instead, the space it 
organizes is one in which the subject will be generated as such by a process 
of facilitations and marks within the constraints of the biological and 
social structure. 

In other words, even though it can be seen in language, the genotext 
is not linguistic (in the sense understood by structural or generative 
linguistics). It is, rather, a process, which tends to articulate structures 
that are ephemeral (unstable, threatened by drive charges, 'quanta', 
rather than 'marks') and non-signifying (devices that do not have a 
double articulation). It forms these structures out of: (a) instinctual 
dyads, (b) the corporeal and ecological continuum, (c) the social 
organism and family structures, which convey the constraints imposed 
by the mode of production, and (d) matrices of enunciation, which give 
rise to discursive 'genres' (according to literary history), 'psychic 
structures' (according to psychiatry and psychoanalysis) or various 
arrangements of 'the participants in the speech event' (in Jakobson's 
notion of the linguistics of discourse). 70 We may posit that the matrices 
of enunciation are the result of the repetition of drive charges (a) within 
biological, ecological and socio-familial constraints (b and c), and the 
stabilization of their facilitatior ;,to stases whose surrounding structure 
accommodates and leaves its mark on symbolization. 

The genotext can thus be seen as language's underlying foundation. 
We shall use the term phenotext to denote language that serves to 
communicate, which linguistics describes in terms of 'competence' and 
'performance'. The phenotext is constantly split up and divided, and 
is irreducible to the semiotic process that works through the genotext. 
The phenotext is a structure (which can be generated, in generative 
grammar's sense); it obeys rules of communication and presupposes 
a subject of enunciation and an addressee. The genotext, on the other 
hand, is a process; it moves through zones that have relative and transi- 
tory borders and constitutes a path that is not restricted to the two poles 
of univocal information between two fully fledged subjects. If these two 
terms - genotext and phenotext - could be translated into a metalanguage 
that would convey the difference between them, one might say that 
the genotext is a matter of topology, whereas the phenotext is one of 
algebra. This distinction may be illustrated by a particular signifying 
system: written and spoken Chinese, particularly classical Chinese. 
Writing represents-articulates the signifying process into specific 

122 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

networks or spaces; speech (which may correspond to that writing) 
restores the diacritical elements necessary for an exchange of meaning 
between two subjects (temporality, aspect, specification of the pro- 
tagonists, morpho-semantic identifiers, and so forth). 71 

The signifying process therefore includes both the genotext and the 
phenotext; indeed it could not do otherwise. For it is in language that 
all signifying operations are realized (even when linguistic material is 
not used), and it is on the basis of language that a theoretical approach 
may attempt to perceive that operation. 

In our view, the process we have just described accounts for the way 
all signifying practices are generated. 72 But every signifying practice 
does not encompass the infinite totality of that process. Multiple con- 
straints - which are ultimately socio-political - stop the signifying process 
at one or another of the theses that it traverses; they knot it and lock 
it into a given surface or structure; they discard practice under fixed, 
fragmentary, symbolic matrices, the tracings of various social constraints 
that obliterate the infinity of the process: the phenotext is what conveys 
these obliterations. Among the capitalist mode of production's numerous 
signifying practices, only certain literary texts of the avant-garde 
(Mallarm€, Joyce) manage to cover the infinity of the process, that is, 
reach the semiotic chora, which modifies linguistic structures. It must 
be emphasized, however, that this total exploration of the signifying 
process generally leaves in abeyance the theses that are characteristic 
of the social organism, its structures and their political transformation: 
the text has a tendency to dispense with political and social signifieds. 

It has only been in very recent years or in revolutionary periods that 
signifying practice has inscribed within the phenotext the plural, 
heterogeneous and contradictory process of signification encompassing 
the flow of drives, material discontinuity, political struggle and the 
pulverization of language. 

Lacan has delineated four types of discourse in our society: that of 
the hysteric, the academic, the master and the analyst. 73 Within the 
perspective just set forth, we shall posit a different classification, which 
in certain respects, intersects these four Lacanian categories, and in 
others, adds to them. We shall distinguish between the following signi- 
fying practices: narrative, metalanguage, contemplation and text- 

Let us state from the outset that this distinction is only provisional 
and schematic, and that although it corresponds to actual practices, it 

Revolution in Poetic Language 123 

interests us primarily as a didactic implement [outil\ - one that will allow 
us to specify some of the modalities of signifying dispositions. The latter 
interest us to the extent that they give rise to different practices and 
are, as a consequence, more or less coded in modes of production. Of 
course narrative and contemplation could also be seen as devices 
stemming from (hysterical and obsessional) transference neurosis; and 
metalanguage and the text as practices allied with psychotic (paranoid 
and schizoid) economies. 


1 See Zellig Harris, Mathematical Structures of Language (New York: Interscience 
Publishers, 1968). See also Maurice Gross and Andre" Lentin, Introduction to Formal 
Grammars, tr. M. Salkoff (Berlin: Springer- Verlag, 1970); M.-C. Barbault and J.-P. 
Descles, Transformations formelles et theories linguistiques, Documents de linguistique 
quantitative, no. 11 (Paris: Dunod, 1972). 

2 On this 'object' see Langages, 24 (Dec. 1971), and, for a didactic, popularized 
account, see Julia Kristeva, Le Langage cet inconnu (Paris: Seuil 1981). 

3 Edmund Husserl, in Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology, tr. W. R. 
Boyce Gibson (London: Allen & Unwin, 1969), posits this subject as a subject of 
intuition, sure of this universally valid unity (of consciousness), a unity that is 
provided in categories itself, since transcendence is precisely the immanence of this 
'Ego', which is an expansion of the Cartesian cogito. 'We shall consider conscious 
experiences'. Husserl writes, 'in the concrete fullness and entirety with which they 
figure in their concrete context - the stream of experience - and to which they are 
closely attached through their own proper essence. It then becomes evident that 
every experience in the stream which our reflexion can lay hold on has us own essence 
open to intuition, a "content" which can be considered in its singularity in and for 
itself. We shall be concerned to grasp this individual content of the cogitatio in its 
pure singularity, and to describe it in its general features, excluding everything which 
is not to be found in the cogitatio as it is in itself. We must likewise describe the 
unity of consciousness which is demanded by the intrinsic nature of the cogitationes, 
and so necessarily demanded that they could not be without this unity' (p. 116). 
From a similar perspective, Benveniste emphasizes language's dialogical character, 
as well as its role in Freud's discovery. Discussing the I/you polarity, he writes: 
'This polarity does not mean either equality or symmetry: "ego" always has a posi- 
tion of transcendence with regard to you. ' in Benveniste, 'Subjectivity in language', 
Problems in General Linguistics, Miami Linguistics Series, no. 8, tr. Mary Elizabeth 
Meek (Coral Gables, Fla: University of Miami Press, 1971), p. 225. In Chomsky, 
the subject-bearer of syntactic synthesis is clearly shown to stem from the Cartesian 
cogito. See his Cartesian Linguistics: a chapter in the history of rationalist thought (New 
York: Harper & Row, 1966). Despite the difference between this Cartesian- 
Chomskyan subject and the transcendental ego outlined by Benveniste and others 
in a more clearly phenomenological sense, both these notions of the act of 

124 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

understanding (or the linguistic act) rest on a common metaphysical foundation: 
consciousness as a synthesizing unity and the sole guarantee of Being. Moreover, 
several scholars - without renouncing the Cartesian principles that governed the 
first syntactic descriptions - have recently pointed out that Husserlian 
phenomenology is a more explicit and more rigorously detailed basis for such descrip- 
tion than the Cartesian method. See Roman Jakobson, who recalls Husserl's role 
in the establishment of modern linguistics, 'Linguistics in relation to other sciences', 
in Selected Writings (2 vols, The Hague: Mouton, 1971), vol. II, pp. 655-96; and 
S.-Y. Kuroda, 'The categorical and the thetic judgement: evidence from Japanese 
syntax', Foundations of Language (Nov. 1972), 9, no. 2, pp. 153-85. 

4 See the work of Ivan F6nagy, particularly 'Bases pulsionnelles de la phonation'. 
Revue Francaise de Psychanalyse, 34, no. 1 (January 1970), pp. 101-36, and 35, 
no. 4 (July 1971), pp. 543-91. 

5 On the 'subject of enunciation', see Tzvetan Todorov, spec. ed. Langages, 17 (March 
1970). Formulated in linguistics by Benveniste ('The correlations of tense in the 
French verb' and 'Subjectivity in language', in Problems, pp. 205-16 and 223-30), 
the notion is used by many linguists, notably Antoine Culioli, 'A propos d'opera- 
tions intervenant dans le traitement formel des langues naturelles', Mathimatiques 
et Sciences Humaines, 9, no. 34 (Summer 1971), pp. 7-15; and Oswald Ducrot, 
'Les ind£finis et I'enonciation'. Langages, 5, no. 17 (March 1970), pp. 91-111. 
Chomsky's 'extended standard theory' makes use of categorial intuition but does 
not refer to the subject of enunciation, even though the latter has been implicit 
in his theory ever since Cartesian Linguistics (1966); see his Studies on Semantics 
in Generative Grammar, Janua Linguarum, series minor, no. 107 (The Hague: 
Mouton, 1972). 

6 See John R. Searle, Speech Acts: an essay on the philosophy of language (London: 
Cambridge University Press, 1969). 

7 See Robert D. King, Historical Linguistics and Generative Grammar (Englewood Cliffs, 
NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969); Paul Kiparsky, 'Linguistic universals and linguistic 
change', in Universals of Linguistic Theory, ed. Emmon Bach and Robert T. Harms 
(New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1968), pp. 170-292; and Kiparsky, 'How 
abstract is phonology?', mimeograph reproduced by Indiana University Linguistics 
Club, Oct. 1968. 

8 S.-Y. Kuroda distinguishes between two styles, 'reportive' and 'non-reportive', 
'Reportive' includes first-person narratives as well as those in the second and third 
person in which the narrator is 'effaced'; 'non-reportive' involves an omniscient 
narrator or 'multi-consciousness'. This distinction explains certain anomalies in the 
distribution of the adjective and verb of sensation in Japanese. (Common usage 
requires that the adjective be used with the first person but it can also refer to the 
third person. When it does, this agrammaticality signals another 'grammatical style': 
an omniscient narrator is speaking in the name of a character, or the utterance 
expresses a character's point of view.) No matter what its subject of enunciation, 
the utterance, Muroda writes, is described as representing that subject's l Erlebnis y 
('experience'), in the sense Husserl uses the term in ideas. See Kuroda, 'Where 
epistemology, style, and grammar meet', mimeographed, University of California, 
San Diego, 1971. 

Revolution in Poetic Language 125 

9 Even the categories of dialectical materialism introduced to designate a discourse 's 
conditions of production as essential bestowers of its signification are based on a 
'subject-bearer' whose logical positing is no different from that found in Husserl 
(see above, n. 3). For example, CI. Haroche, P. Henry and Michel Pecheux stress 
'the importance of linguistic studies on the relation between utterance and enun- 
ciation, by which the "speaking subject" situates himself with respect to the 
representations he bears - representations that are put together by means of the 
linguistically analyzable 'pre-constnicted" \ They conclude that 'it is undoubtedly 
on this point - together with that of the syntagmatization of the characteristic 
substitutions of a discursive formation - that the contribution of the theory of 
discourse to the study of ideological formation (and the theory of ideologies) can 
now be most fruitfully developed'. 'La Seinantique et la coupure saussurienne: 
langue, langage, discours', Langages, 24 (Dec. 1971), p. 106. This notion of the 
subject as always already there on the basis of a 'pre-constructed' language (but 
how is it constructed? and what about the subject who constructs before bearing what 
has been constructed?') has even been preserved under a Freudian cover. As a case 
in point, Michel Tort questions the relation between psychoanalysis and historical 
materialism by placing a subject-bearer between 'ideological agency' and 'un- 
conscious formations'. He defines this subject-bearer as 'the biological specificity 
of individuals (individuality as a biological concept), inasmuch as it is the material 
basis upon which individuals are called to function by social relations'. 'La 
psychanalyse dans le mate'rialisme historique*. Nouvelk Revue de Psychanalyse, 2 
(Spring 1970), p. 154. But this theory provides only a hazy view of how this subject- 
bearer is produced through the unconscious and within the 'ideological' signifier, 
and does not allow us to see this production's investment in ideological representa- 
tions themselves. From this perspective, the only thing one can say about 'arts' 
or 'religions', for example, is that they are 'relics'. On language and history, see 
also Jean-Claude Chevalier, 'Langage et histoire', Langue Francaise, IS (Sept. 1972), 
pp. 3-17. 

10 On the phenomenological bases of modern linguistics, see Kristeva, 'Les 
epistemologies de la linguistique', Langages, 24 (December 1971), p. 11; and 
especially: Jacques Derrida, 'The supplement of copula: philosophy before 
linguistics', in Textual Strategies, ed. and tr. Josue" v. Harari (Ithaca, NY: Cornell 
University Press, 1979), pp. 82-120; Of Grammatology, tr. Gayatri Chakravorty 
Spivak (Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), pp. 27-73; and 
Speech and Phenomena, and Other Essays on Husserl 's Theory of Signs, introd. and 
tr. David B. Allison (Evanston, 111.: Northwestern University Press, 1973). 

1 1 The term ' chord' has recently been criticized for its ontological essence by Jacques 
Derrida: Positions, annot. and tr. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 
1981), pp. 75 and 106, n. 39. 

12 Plato emphasizes that the receptacle (bvohoxfiov), which is also called space (x«e°) 
vis-a-vis reason, is necessary - but not divine since it is unstable, uncertain, ever 
changing and becoming; it is even unnameable, improbable, bastard: 'Space, which 
is everlasting, not admitting destruction; providing a situation for all things that 
come into being but itself apprehended without the senses by a sort of bastard 
reasoning, and hardly an object of belief. This, indeed, is that which we look upon 

126 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

as in a dream and say that anything that is must needs be in some place and 

occupy some room...' (Timaeus, tr. Francis M. Cornford, 52a-52b). Is the 

receptacle a 'thing* or a mode of language? Plato's hesitation between the two gives 

the receptacle an even more uncertain status. It is one of the elements that antedate 

not only the universe but also names and even syllables. 'We speak . . . positing them 

as original principles, elements (as it were, letters) of the universe; whereas one 

who has ever so little intelligence should not rank them in this analogy even so 

low as syllables' (ibid., 48b). 'It is hard to say, with respect to any one of these, 

which we ought to call really water rather than fire, or indeed which we should 

call by any given name rather than by all the names together or by each severally, 

so as to use language in a sound and trustworthy way . . . Since, then, in this way 

no one of these things ever makes its appearance as the same thing, which of them 

can we steadfastly affirm to be this - whatever it may be - and not something else, 

without blushing for ourselves? It cannot be done' (ibid., 49b-d). 

13 There is a fundamental ambiguity: on the one hand, the receptacle is mobile and 

even contradictory, without unity, separable and divisible: pre-syllable, pre-word. 

Yet, on the other hand, because this separability and divisibility antecede numbers 

and forms, the space or receptacle is called amorphous: thus its suggested rhythmicity 

will in a certain sense be erased, for how can one think an articulation of what is 

not yet singular but is nevertheless necessary? All we may say of it, then, to make 

it intelligible, is that it is amorphous but that it 'is of such and such a quality', 

not even an index or something in particular ('this' or 'that'). Once named, it 

immediately becomes a container that takes the place of infinitely repeatable 

separability. This amounts to saying that this repeated separability is 'ontologized* 

the moment a name or a word replaces it, making it intelligible. 'Are we talking 

idly whenever we say that there is such a thing as an intelligible Form of anything? 

Is this nothing more than a word?' (ibid., 51c). Is the Platonic chora the 'nomin- 

ability* of rhythm (of repeated separation)? 

Why then borrow an ontologized term in order to designate an articulation that 
antecedes positing? First, the Platonic term makes explicit an insurmountable 
problem for discourse: once it has been named, that functioning, even if it is pre- 
symbolic, is brought back into a symbolic position. All discourse can do is differen- 
tiate, by means of a 'bastard reasoning', the receptacle from the motility, which, 
by contrast, is not posited as being 'a certain something' ['une telle']. Secondly, 
this motility is the precondition for symbolicity, heterogeneous to it, yet indispens- 
able. Therefore what needs to be done is to try to differentiate, always through 
a 'bastard reasoning', the specific arrangements of this motility, without seeing them 
as recipients of accidental singularities, or a Being always posited in itself, or a 
projection of the One. Moreover, Plato invites us to differentiate in this fashion 
when he describes this motility, while gathering it into the receiving membrane. 
'But because it was filled with powers that were neither alike nor evenly balanced, 
there was no equipoise in any region of it, but it was everywhere swayed unevenly 
and shaken by these things and by its motion shook them in turn. And they, being 
thus moved, were perpetually being separated and carried in different directions, 
just as when things are shaken and winnowed by means of winnowing baskets and 
other instruments for cleaning corn. . .it separated the most unlike kinds farthest 

Revolution in Poetic Language 127 

apart from one another, and thrust the most alike closest together: whereby the 
different kinds came to have different regions, even before the ordered whole 
consisting of them came to be . . . but were altogether in such a condition as we should 
expect for anything when deity is absent from it' (ibid., 52d-53b). Indefinite 
'conjunctions' and 'disjunctions' (functioning, devoid of Meaning), the chora is 
governed by a necessity that is not God's law. 

14 The Platonic space or receptacle is a mother and wet nurse: 'Indeed we may fittingly 
compare the Recipient to a mother, the model to a father, and the nature that arises 
between them to their offspring' (ibid., 50d); 'Now the wet nurse of Becoming 
was made watery and fiery, received the characters of earth and air, and was qualified 
by all the other affections that go with these. . . 'ibid., 52d; translation modified. 

15 'Law', which derives etymologically from lex, necessarily implies the act of judge- 
ment whose role in safeguarding society was first developed by the Roman law courts. 
'Ordering', on the other hand, is closer to the series 'rule', 'norm' (from the Greek 
ypuftuvy meaning 'discerning' [adj.], 'carpenter's square' [noun]), etc., which 
implies a numerical or geometrical necessity. On normativity in linguistics, see Alain 
Rey, 'Usages, jugements et prescriptions linguistiques', Langue Francaise, 16 
(Dec. 1972), p. 5. But the temporary ordering of the chora is not yet even a rule: 
the arsenal of geometry is posterior to the chord's motility; it fixes the chora in place 
and reduces it. 

16 Operations are, rather, an act of the subject of understanding. [Hans G. Furth, 
in Piaget and Knowledge: theoretical foundations (Englewood Cliffs, NJ; Prentice- 
Hall, 1969), offers the following definition of 'concrete operations': 'Characteristic 
of the first stage of operational intelligence. A concrete operation implies underly- 
ing general systems or "groupings" such as classification, seriation, number. Its 
applicability is limited to objects considered as real (concrete)' (p. 260) - Tr.] 

17 Piaget stresses that the roots of sensorimotor operations precede language and that 
the acquisition of thought is due to the symbolic function, which, for him, is a 
notion separate from that of language per se. See Jean Piaget, 'Language and sym- 
bolic operations', in Piaget and Knowledge, pp. 121-30. 

18 By 'function' we mean a dependent variable determined each time the indepen- 
dent variables with which it is associated are determined. For our purposes, a 
function is what links stases within the process of semiotic facilitation. 

19 Such a position has been formulated by Lipot Szondi, Experimental Diagnostic of 
Drives, tr. Gertrude Aull (New York: Grune & Stratum, 1952). 

20 See James D. Watson, The Double Helix: a personal account of the discovery of the 
structure of DNA (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1968). 

21 Throughout her writings, Melanie Klein emphasizes the 'pre-Oedipal' phase, i.e., 
a period of the subject's development that precedes the 'discovery' of castration 
and the positing of the superego, which itself is a subject to (paternal) Law. The 
processes she describes for this phase correspond, but on a genetic level, to what 
we call the semiotic, as opposed to the symbolic, which underlies and conditions 
the semiotic. Significantly, these pre-Oedipal processes are organized through 
projection on to the mother's body, for girls as well as for boys: 'at this stage of 
development children of both sexes believe that it is the body of their mother which 
contains all that is desirable, especially their father's penis", The Psycho-analysis 

128 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

of Children, tr. Alix Strachey (London: Hogarth Press, 1932), p. 269. Our own 
view of this stage is as follows: Without 'believing' or 'desiring' any 'object' what- 
soever, the subject is in the process of constituting himself vis-a-vis a non-object. 
He is in the process of separating from this non-object so as to make that non-object 
'one' and posit himself as 'other': the mother's body is the not-yet-one that the 
believing and desiring subject will image as a 'receptacle'. 

22 As for what situates the mother in symbolic space, we find the phallus again (see 
Jacques Lacan, 'La relation d'objet et les structures freudiennes', Bulletin de 
Psychologic, April 1957, pp. 426-30), represented by the mother's father, i.e., the 
subject's maternal grandfather (see Marie-Claire Boons, 'Le meurtre du Pere chez 
Freud', L'lnconscient, 5, Jan.-March 1968, pp. 101-29. 

23 Though disputed and inconsistent, the Freudian theory of drives is of interest here 
because of the predominance Freud gives to the death drive in both 'living matter' 
and the 'human being'. The death drive is transversal to identity and tends to 
disperse 'narcissisms' whose constitution ensures the link between structures and, 
by extension, life. But at the same time and conversely, narcissism and pleasure 
are only temporary positions from which the death drive blazes new paths [se fraye 
de nouveaux passages] . Narcissism and pleasure are therefore inveiglings and realiza- 
tions of the death drive. The semiotic chora, converting drive discharges into stases, 
can be thought of both as a delaying of the death drive and as a possible realization 
of this drive, which tends to return to a homeostatic state. This hypothesis is con- 
sistent with the following remark: 'at the beginning of mental life', writes Freud, 
'the struggle for pleasure was far more intense than later but not so unrestricted: 
it had to submit to frequent interruptions,' Beyond the Pleasure Principle, in The 
Standard Edition of the Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. James Strachey (London: 
Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1953), vol. XVIII, p. 63. 

24 Mallarme", OEuvres completes (Paris: Gallimard, 1945), pp. 382-87. 

25 Ibid., p. 383. 

26 Ibid., pp. 383 and 385. 

27 Ibid., pp. 385-86. 

28 Husserl, Ideas, p. 342. 

29 In Ideas, posited meaning is 'the unity of meaning and thetic character' . 'The concept 
of proposition (Sate)', Husserl writes, 'is certainly extended thereby in an excep- 
tional way that may alienate sympathy, yet it remains within the limits of an 
important unity of essence. We must constantly bear in mind that for us the concepts 
of meaning (Sinn) and posited meaning (or position) (Satz) contain nothing of the 
nature of expression and conceptual meaning, but on the other hand include all 
explicit propositions and all prepositional meanings' (Ideas, p. 369). Further on, 
the inseparability of posited meaning, meaning and the object is even more clearly 
indicated: 'According to our analyses these concepts indicate an abstract stratum 
belonging to the full tissue of all noemata [emphasis added]. To grasp this stratum 
in its all-enveloping generality, and thus to realize that it is represented in all act- 
spheres, has a wide bearing on our way of knowledge. Even in the plain and simple 
intuitions the concepts meaning (Sinn) and posited meaning (Satz) which belong 
inseparably to the concept of object (Gegenstand) have their necessary application. . . 
(pp. 369-70). 

Revolution in Poetic Language 129 

30 On the matrix of the sign as the structure of a logical proof, see Emile Brlhier, 
La Theorie des incorporeh dans I'ancien stoicism (Paris: J. Vrin, 1970). 

31 The fact is that the total form of the body by which the subject anticipates in a 
mirage the maturation of his power is given to him only as Gestalt, that is to say, 
in an exteriority in which this form is certainly more constituent than constituted, 
but in which it appears to him above all in a contrasting size (un relief de stature) 
that fixes it and in a symmetry that inverts it, in contrast with the turbulent 
movements that the subject feels are animating him.' Lacan, 'The mirror stage as 
formative of the function of the I', in Ecrits: a selection, tr. Alan Sheridan (New 
York: Norton, 1977), p. 2. 

32 'The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire in the Freudian un- 
conscious', Ecrits: a selection, p. 319. 

33 In Lacan's terminology, castration and the phallus are defined as 'position', 'localiza- 
tion' and 'presence': 'We know that the unconscious castration complex has the 
function of a knot: ... (2) in a regulation of the development that gives its ratio to 
this first role: namely, the installation in the subject of an unconscious position without 
which he would be unable to identify himself with the ideal type of his sex. . . ' 
('The signification of the phallus', Ecrits: a selection, p. 281; emphasis added). 'We 
know that in this term Freud specifies the first genital maturation: on the one hand, 
it would seem to be characterized by the imaginary dominance of the phallic attribute 
and by masturbatory jouissance and, on the other, it localizes this jouissance for the 
woman in the clitoris, which is thus raised to the function of the phallus' (p. 282; 
emphasis added). '[The phallus] is the signifier intended to designate as a whole 
the effects of the signified, in that the signifier conditions them by its presence as 
a signifier' (p. 285; emphasis added). 

34 Lacan himself has suggested the term 'want-to-be' for his neologism {manque a etre). 
Other proposed translations include 'want-of-being' (Leon S. Roudiez, personal 
communication) and 'constitutive lack' (Jeffrey Mehlman, 'The "floating signifier": 
from Levi- Strauss to Lacan', Yak French Studies, 48, 1972, p. 37). - Tr. 

35 Ecrits: a selection, p. 299. 

36 Loc. cit. 

37 Our definition of language as deriving from the death drive finds confirmation in 
Lacan: 'From the approach that we have indicated, the reader should recognize 
in the metaphor of the return to the inanimate (which Freud attaches to every living 
body) that margin beyond life that language gives to the human being by virtue 
of the fact that he speaks, and which is precisely that in which such a being places 
in the position of a signifier, not only those parts of his body that are exchangeable, 
but this body itself ('The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire in 
the Freudian unconscious', Ecrits: a selection, p. 301). We would add that the sym- 
bolism of magic is based on language's capacity to store up the death drive by taking 
it out of the body. Levi- Strauss suggests this when he writes that 'the relationship 
between monster and disease is internal to [the patient's] mind, whether conscious 
or unconscious: It is a relationship between symbol and thing symbolized, or, to 
use the terminology of linguists, between signifier and signified. The shaman 
provides the sick woman with a language, by means of which unexpressed and other- 
wise inexpressible psychic states can be immediately expressed. And it is the 

130 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

transition to this verbal expression - at the same time making it possible to undergo 
in an ordered and intelligible form a real experience that would otherwise be chaotic 
and inexpressible - which induces the release of the physiological process, that is, 
the reorganization, in a favorable direction, of the process to which the sick woman 
is subjected.' 'The effectiveness of symbols', in Structural Anthropology, 1, pp. 197-8; 
translation modified. 

38 See Lacan, 'On a question preliminary to any possible treatment of psychosis', in 
Ecrits: a selection, p. 197. 

39 'The theory of textual writing's history may be termed "monumental history" in 
so far as it serves as a "ground" ['fait fond'] in a literal way, in relation to a "cursive", 
figural (teleological) history which has served at once to constitute and dissimulate 
a written/exterior space. ..Writing "that recognizes the rupture" is therefore 
irreducible to the classical (representational) concept of "written text": what it writes 
is never more than one part of itself. It makes the rupture the intersection of two 
sets (two irreconcilable states of language)', Philippe Sollers writes, 'Program', in 
Writing and the Experience of Limits, ed. David Hayman, tr. Philip Barnard and 
David Hayman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), p. 7. Our reading 
of Lautreamont and Mallarm£ will attempt to follow these principles, see La 
Revolution du langage poitique (Paris: Seuil, 1974), pp. 361-609. [This is the first 
of many references to the latter portion of La Revolution du langage poitique, which 
has not been translated - tr.] 

40 Indeed, even T Iranian theory, although it establishes the signifier as absolute master, 
makes a distinction between two modalities of the signifier represented by the two 
levels of the 'completed graph* (Ecrits: a selection, p. 314). On the one hand, the 
signifier as 'signifier's treasure', as distinct from the code, 'for it is not that the 
univocal correspondence of a sign with something is preserved in it, but that the 
signifier is constituted only from a synchronic and enumerable collection of elements 
in which each is sustained only by the principle of its opposition to each of the 
others' (p. 304). Drives function within this 'treasure of the signifiers' (p. 314), 
which is also called a signifying 'battery'. But from that level on, and even 
beforehand, the subject submits to the signifier, which is also shown as a 'punctua- 
tion in which the signification is constituted as finished product' (p. 304). In this 
way the path from the treasure to punctuation forms a 'previous site of the pure 
subject of the signifier', which is not yet, however, the true place [lieu] of the Other. 
On that level, the psychotic 'dance' unfolds, the 'pretence' [feinte] that 'is satisfied 
with that previous Other', accounted for by game theory. The fact remains that 
this previous site does not exhaust the question of signification because the subject 
is not constituted from the code that lies in the Other, but rather from the message 
emitted by the Other. Only when the Other is distinguished from all other part- 
ners, unfolding as signifier and signified - and, as a result, artic ulating himself within 
an always already sentential signification and thus transmitting messages - only 
then are the preconditions for language ('speech') present. 

At this second stage, the signifier is not just a 'treasure' or a 'battery' but a place 
[lieu]: 'But it is clear that Speech begins only with the passage from "pretence" 
to the order of the signifier, and that the signifier requires another locus - the locus 
of the Other, the Other witness, the witness Other than any of the partners - for 

Revolution in Poetic Language 131 

the Speech that it supports to be capable of lying, that is to say, of presenting itself 
as Truth* (p. 305). Only from this point will the ego start to take on varous con- 
figurations. What seems problematic about this arrangement, or in any case what 
we believe needs further development, is the way in which the 'battery', the 
'treasure' of the signifier, functions. In our opinion, game theory cannot completely 
account for this functioning, nor can a signification be articulated until an alterity 
is distinctly posited as such. One cannot speak of the 'signifier' before the positing 
or the thesis of the Other, the articulation of which begins only with the mirror 
stage. But what of the previous processes that are not yet 'a site', but a functioning? 
The thetic phase will establish this functioning, as a signifying order (though it will 
not stop it) and will return in this order. 

41 'On sense and reference', tr. Max Black, in Translations from the Philosophical Writings 
ofGottlob Frege, ed. Peter Geach and Max Black (New York: Philosophical Library, 
1952), p. 65; emphasis added; translation modified. [To maintain consistency with 
Kristeva's terminology and with the French translations of Frege she cites, I have 
changed 'sense' to 'meaning' (sens) and 'reference' to 'denotation' (denotation) 
throughout - Tr.] Indeed, analogous remarks can be found in Husserl: 'Every 
synthetically unitary consciousness, however many special theses and syntheses it 
may involve, possesses the total object which belongs to it as a synthetically unitary 
consciousness. We call it a total object in contrast with the objects which belong 
intentionally to the lower or higher grade members of the synthesis. . . ' '[These] 
noetic experiences [have] a quite determinate essential content, over which, despite 
the endlessness, a proper oversight can still be kept, all the experiences agreeing 
in this that they are a consciousness of "the same' ' object. This unanimity is evidenced 
in the sphere of consciousness itself. . . ' (Ideas, pp. 335 and 375; emphasis added). 

42 'By combining subject and predicate, one reaches only a thought, never passes from 
meaning to denotation, never from a thought to its truth value. One moves at the 
same level but never advances from one level to the next. A truth value cannot 
be a part of a thought, any more than, say, the sun can, for it is not a meaning 
but an object.' Frege, 'On sense and reference', p. 64; translation modified. 

43 Brentano, Venn, Bayn and Russell, among others, have argued the possibility of 
converting existential assertions into predicative assertions. Existence in this case 
is understood as the existence of a subject that has a predicate and not simply as 
an existence of the predicate within the subject. Frege clearly distinguishes the two 
levels: denotation as the existence of the logical subject as denoted object, meaning 
as the existence of a predicate for a subject (ibid., pp. 64-5). 

44 'If now the truth value of a sentence is its denotation, then on the one hand all 
true sentences have the same denotation and so, on the other hand, do all false 
sentences.' Ibid., p. 65; translation modified. 

45 'It may perhaps be granted that every grammatically well-formed expression 
representing a proper name always has a meaning.' Ibid., p. 58; translation modified. 

46 The functioning of the verb 'to be' in several non-Indo European languages shows 
the course the signifying process follows before it posits an existence. In this respect, 
these languages are different from Greek and Indo-European languages in general, 
which unhesitatingly posit existence and thereby tend to make it a metaphysical 
category. (Heidegger and Benveniste, to name only two, thought they had proved the 

132 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

complicity between the category of being and the verb 'to be'.) These languages 
lead us to identify semiotic stages or modalities that precede or take place within 
the thetic, but are distinct from existence: designation, accentuation, reminders 
of the unkity or the accuracy of the act of enunciating, and so forth. Thus, in modern 
Chinese, the 'illogical' functioning of shi ('to be') in its position as copula is resolved 
by supposing that, in most of these 'illogical' cases, 'to be' is simply a substitute 
for the verbal function perse and is called a 'pro-verb'. See Anne Yue Hashimoto, 
'The Verb "To Be" in Modern Chinese', in The Verb 'Be' and Its Synonyms: 
philosophical and grammatical studies, ed. John W. M. Verhaar (Dordrecht, Holland: 
D. Reidel, 1969), pt 4, pp. 90ff . Since, as it could be shown, shi assumes the func- 
tion of pro- verb in several cases other than those indicated by Hashimoto, we could 
say that its function is to indicate the logical moment of enunciation and denota- 
tion, to mark the positing of the act of enunciation-denotation and the relational 
possibilities deriving from it (before there is any affirmation of the existence of the 
subject or denoted object and their modalities). In our view, the emphatic function 
of shi, which is common in Chinese, as well as its semantic functions, such as those 
indicating the accuracy or the truth of the utterance, confirm this interpretation. 
We might add that shi was not used as a verb in classical Chinese until the second 
century. Before that time it was used solely as a demonstrative; only its negative 
form had a verbal function. 

On the other hand, in Arabic, there is no verb 'to be'. Its function is filled - 
as translations from Arabic into Indo-European languages and vice versa show - 
by a series of morphemes. These include: the verb kana (with its two meanings, 
'to exist' and 'to be such and such'), which indicates a genetic process and not 
something already in existence; the assertive particle, inna which means 'indeed'; 
the incomplete verb laysa, which is a negative copula; the third-person pronoun, 
huwa, which refers to an extra-allocutory moment but nevertheless ensures the unity 
of the discursive act and is, according to standard metaphysical intepretation, God; 
and finally, the verbal root wjd, which means 'to find', a localization that, by 
extension, indicates truth. See Fadlou Shedadi, 'Arabic and "To Be'", ibid., 
pp. 112-25. 

In summary, semantically as well as syntactically, explicitly in these languages 
but implicitly in others (Indo-European languages, for example), 'to be' condenses 
the different modalities of the predicative function. The most fundamental of these 
modalities seems to be position (the thetic) or localization, from which the others 
- the enunciation of an existence, a truth, a spado-temporal differentiation effected 
by the subject of enunciation, and so forth - derive. See John Lyons, 'A note on 
possessive, existential and locative sentences', Foundations of Language, 3 (1967), 
pp. 390-6; Charles H. Kahn, The Verb 'Be' in Ancient Greek, in The Verb 'Be' and 
Its Synonyms, suppl. series, vol. XVI, ed. John W. M. Verhaar (Dordrecht, Holland: 
D. Reidel, 1973). 
47 On the predicative function as the foundation of a complete utterance, see Jerzy 
Kurylbwicz, Esquisses linguistiques (Wroclaw, Cracow: Zakfcad Narodowy Imienia 
Ossolinskich, Wydawnictwo Polskej Akademii Nauk, 1960), pp. 35ff; S. K. 
Shaumyan and P. A. Soboleva, Osnovanija porozdajuKej grammatiki ruskovo jazyka 
[Foundations of generative grammar in Russian] (Moscow: Nauka, 1968). On this 

Revolution in Poetic Language 133 

same problem with respect to the utterance's relation to what is extra-linguistic, 
see Benveniste. 'The nominal sentence', in Problems, pp. 131-44; P. F. Strawson, 
Individuals: an essay in descriptive metaphysics (Garden Qty, New York: Double- 
day, 1959; 1963). 
48 Comparative linguistics generally used to consider the verb as the predominant 
element of language and as the one from which the noun derived. Generative 
linguistics revalorizes the noun by making it an essential component of deep structure, 
while including the verb in another no less essential component, the predicate. Some 
linguists tend to give the noun a determining role because it particularizes the 
utterance by giving it a concrete referent. From this point of view, predication is 
determinative only for the act of enunciation and only if it is completed by the noun. 
See Lyons, 'A note on possessive, existential and locative sentences'; Strawson, 
Individuals; and so forth. For others, the noun always appears under the 'nexus 
of the predicate', which follows the assertion of certain logicians (Russell, Quine) 
that every 'particular' is replaced by a variable linked to existential quantification. 
We thus see that predication is defined as being coextensive with every act of 
naming. What we call a thetic function is none other than the speaking subject's 
positing of enunciation through a syntagm or proposition: the distinctions between 
noun and verb, etc., are posterior to this function and concern only the surface 
structure of certain languages. But we would emphasize that (logically) even before 
this distinction, enunciation is thetic, no matter what the morphology of the syntagms 
used, and that it is 'predicative' in the sense that it situates the act of the subject 
of enunciation with respect to the Other, in a space and time preceding any other 
particularization. This thetic (predicative) act is the presupposition of every simple 
nominal utterance, which, in its turn, will select a specific predicative morpheme. 
See C.-E. Bazell, 'Syntactic relations and linguistic typology', Cahiers Ferdinand 
de Saussure (1949), vol. VIII, pp. 5-20. On a genetic level, Benveniste observes 
a 'pre-inflectional period' of Indo-European in which the noun and the verb, 'set 
up on a common basis', are not differentiated. Origines de la formation des noms 
en mdo-europien (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1935). 

49 On the traumatizing object which hinders the positing of the thetic, see 'La transposi- 
tion, le deplacement, la condensation', La Revolution du langage poitique, pp. 230-9. 

50 See 'Le dispositif semiotique du texte', ibid., pp. 209-358. 

51 See 'Instances du discours et alteration du sujet', ibid., pp. 315-35, where we 
establish that it is a non-recoverable deletion. 

52 'Effraction', in French, is the juridical term for 'breaking and entering'; in Kristeva's 
sense it also means a 'breaking into' or 'breaking through'. I have translated it as 
'breach'; the act or result of breaking and, more significantly, an infraction or viola- 
tion as of a law - Tr. 

53 It has recently been emphasized that mimesis is not an imitation of an object but 
a reproduction of the trajectory of enunciation; in other words, mimesis departs from 
denotation (in Frege's sense) and confines itself to meaning. Roland Barthes makes 
this explicit: 'The function of narrative is not to "represent", it is to constitute 
a spectacle still very enigmatic for us . . . Logic has here an emancipatory value - 
and with it the entire narrative, it may be that men ceaselessly re-inject into narrative 
what they have known, what they have experienced; but if they do, at least it is 

134 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

in a form which has vanquished repetition and instituted the model of a process 
of becoming. Narrative does not show, does not imitate; the passion which may 
excite us in reading a novel is not that of a "vision" (in actual fact, we do not "see" 
anything). Rather it is that of meaning . . . ; "what happens" is language alone, the 
adventure of language, the unceasing celebration of its coming. ' Barthes, 'Introduc- 
tion to the structuralist analysis of narratives', in Image, Music, Text, tr. Stephen 
Heath (New York: Hill & Wang, 1977), pp. 123-4. This is also what Goethe means 
when he writes: 'In your own mode of rhyme my feet I'll find./ The repetitions 
of pleasures shall incite:/ At first the sense and then the words I'll find [Erst werd 
ich Sinn, sodann auch Worte finden] . No sound a second time will I indite/ Unless 
thereby the meaning is refined/ As you, with peerless gifts, have shown aright!' 
But this analysis of meaning through sounds must result in a new device that is 
not just a new meaning but also a new 'form': 'Measured rhythms are indeed 
delightful./ And therein a pleasing talent basks;/ But how quickly they can taste 
so frightful./ There's no blood nor sense in hollow masks [Hohle Masken ohne Blut 
und Sinn] . / Even wit must shudder at such tasks/ If h can't, with new form occupied/ 
Put an end at last to form that's died.' 'Imitation' [Nachbildung], West-Eastern 
Dwan/West-Oesdicher Divan, tr. J. Whaley (London: Oswald Wolff, 1974), pp. 34-7. 

54 This is why Lacan stated in his spring 1972 seminar that the expression 'Die 
Bedeutung des Phallus' is a tautology. 

55 See Jakobson, 'L'importanza di Kruszewski per lo sviluppo della linguistics 
generale'. Ricerche Slavistiche (1967), 14, pp. 1-20. 

56 See Lacan, Ecrits: a selection, pp. 156-7 and passim. 

57 See Kristeva, Le Texte du roman: approche semiologique d'une structure discursive 
transformationnelle (The Hague: Mouton, 1970). 

58 'We have not yet referred to any other sort of displacement [Verschiebung]. Analyses 
show us, however, that another sort exists and that it reveals itself in a change in 
the verbal expression of the thoughts concerned . . . One element is replaced by another 
[ein Element seine Wortfassung gegen erne andere vertauscht] . . . Any one thought, whose 
form of expression may happen to be fixed for other reasons, will operate in a deter- 
minant and selective manner on the possible forms of expression allotted to the 
other thoughts, and it may do so, perhaps, from the very start - as is the case in 
writing a poem [Der eine Gedanke, dessen Ausdruck etwa am anderen Gr&ndenfeststeht, 
wird dabei verteilend und auswdhlend auf die Ausdrucksmdglichkeiten des anderen 
einwirken, und dies vielleicht von vorneherein, dhnlich toie bei der Arbeit des Dichters].' 
The Interpretation of Dreams. Standard Edition, vol. V, pp. 339-40; Gesammelte Werke 
(London: Imago, 1942), vol. II— III, pp. 344-5. See 'La transposition, le deplace- 
ment, la condensation', La Revolution du langage poetique, pp. 230-9. 

59 Goethe speaks of this when, describing the Arabic tradition, he calls to mind the 
poet whose role is to express 'Undeniable truth indelibly:/ But there are some small 
points here and there/ Which exceed the limits of the law [Ausgemachte Wahreit 
unausldschlich:/Aber hie und da ouch Kleimgkeuen/Ausserhalb der Grenze des Gesetzes] . ' 
'Fetwa', West-Eastern Divan, pp. 30-3. 

60 'Yet this "object of perspective" may be handled in different ways. In fetishism 
(and, in my view, in art works), it pushes itself into the great ambiguous realm 
of disavowal, and materializes ... As a result, we see . . . that all scientific or esthetic 

Revolution in Poetic Language 135 

observation or activity has a part to play in the fate reserved for the "perspective 
object" ', writes Guy Rosolato, 'Le fetishisme dont se "derobe" l'objet', Nouvelk 
Revue de Psychanalyse, 2 (Autumn 1970), p. 39. [For a more complete account of 
this concept in English, see Rosolato, 'Symbol formation', International Journal 
of Psychanalysis, 59, 1978, pp. 303-13 - Tr.] 

61 As Jean Pouillon remarks, 'if words were merely fetishes, Semantics would be 
reduced to phonology', 'Fetiches sans fetichisme', Nouvelle Revue de Psychanalyse, 
2 (Autumn 1970), p. 147. 

62 By contrast, discourse in Moliere's 'Femmes savantes' is an exemplary case of the 
fetishizing process since it focuses exclusively on the signifier. 'It is indeed the sign 
that becomes an erotic object and not the "erotic" signified of discourse, as is usual 
in simple cases of repression (obscene talk or graffiti). It is not obsession but perver- 
sion.* Josette Rey-Debove, 'L'orgie langagiere', Poitique, 12 (1972), p. 579. 

63 See John von Neumann, "Die Computer and the Brain (New Haven; Conn.: Yale 
University Press, 1958). 

64 Anthony Wilden, 'Analog and digital communication', Semiotica, 6, no. 1 (1972), 
pp. 50-1. [Kristeva gives a loose translation of these passages in French. I have 
restored the original English quotation. Wilden, it should be noted, uses 'computer' 
in the broad sense, whether the device actually computes in the strict sense 
or not - Tr.] 

65 Ibid., p. 55. 

66 Benveniste has taught us not to confuse these two operations, but rather to call 
something a language only when it has a double articulation; the distinction between 
phonemes devoid of meaning and morphemes as elements - for which no code is 
pertinent - is a social, specifically human occurrence. See 'Animal communication 
and human language', Problems, pp. 49-54. 

67 This is what Hegel believes. At the end of the 'Larger logic', describing negativity 
as that which constructs absolute knowledge, he writes: 'This negativity, as self- 
transcending contradiction, is the reconstitution of the first immediacy, of simple univer- 
sality; for, immediately, the Other of the Other and the negative of the negative 
is the positive, identical, and universal. ' Hegel's Science of Logic, tr. W. H. Johnston 
and L. G. Struthers (2 vols, London: Allen & Unwin, 1929; 1966), vol. II, p. 478; 
emphasis added. 

68 Moses and Monotheism, Standard Edition, vol. XXIII, pp. 7-137. 

69 The two roles have often merged, as Georges Dumezil reminds us in Mitra- Varum 
(Paris: Gallimard, 1948). See 'Deux conceptions de la souverainetl', La Revolution 
du langage poitique, pp. 545-52. 

70 See 'Shifters. Verbal categories, and the Russian verb', in Jakobson, Selected 
Writings, vol. II, pp. 130-47. 

71 See Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, (4 vols, Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 1960), vol. I. 

72 From a similar perspective, Edgar Morin writes: 'We can think of magic, 
mythologies, and ideologies both as mixed systems, making affectivity rational and 
rationality affective, and as outcomes of combining: a) fundamental drives, b) the 
chancy play of fantasy, and c) logico-constructive systems. (To our mind, the theory 
of myth must be based on triunic syncretism rather than unilateral logic.)' He adds, 

136 Linguistics, Semiotics, Textuality 

in a note, that 'myth does not have a single logic but a synthesis of three kinds 
of logic*. 'Le paradigme perdu: la nature humaine', paper presented at the 
'Invariants biologiques et universalis culturels' Colloquium, Royaumont, 6-9 Sept. 
73 Lacan presented this typology of discourse at his 1969 and 1970 seminars. 

Translated by Margaret Waller 


Women, Psychoanalysis, 

About Chinese Women 

Published in 1974, Des Chinoises (Paris: des femmes) is a small collection of 
notes and impressions from Kristeva's three weeks in China in April and May 
of that year. The book is divided into two parts: one short section entitled 
'On This Side', which examines the position of the speaker, that is to say, 
of a Western woman observing China, and the main bulk of the book, en- 
titled 'Women of China', which deals with Kristeva's impressions from her 
trip. Her perspective on China has been criticized as ethnocentric. In her 
essay 'French Feminism in an International Frame* (Yale French Studies, 62, 
1981, pp. 154-85), Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, for instance, argues that 
Kristeva's approach is not only cavalier but also sometimes condescending 
towards Chinese culture and society. For this volume I have selected the four 
short chapters (2, 3, 4 and 5) constituting Kristeva's analysis of the Judaeo- 
Christian tradition which shapes the Western understanding of femininity and 
sexual difference. These chapters are translated specially for this volume by 
Sean Hand. The whole text of Des Chinoises has been translated by Anita 
Barrows and was published in 1977 under the title About Chinese Women 
(London: Marion Boyars). 

In the selection reproduced here, Kristeva first analyses the development 
of Judaism as the victory of patriarchal monotheism over an earlier, maternal 
and fertility-oriented religion. While stressing the negative consequences of 
patriarchal monotheism for women, who find themselves reduced to the role 
of the silent Other of the symbolic order, she also emphasizes the necessity 
of upholding the Law and sexual difference as long as one remains within the 
framework of patrilinear, class-structured capitalist society. While continuing 
the Judaic, monotheist tradition, Christianity nevertheless also adds its own 
particular insistence on female virginity and martyrdom. In Christian ideology, 
Kristeva argues, motherhood is perceived as a conspicuous sign of ihtjouissance 
of the female (or maternal) body, a pleasure that must at all costs be repressed: 
the function of procreation must be kept strictly subordinated to the rule of 
the Father's Name. As with Judaism, woman's only access to the symbolic 
order goes through the father. In this way, woman is presented with a clear-cut 

About Chinese Women 139 

choice: either she remains identified with the mother, thus ensuring her own 
exclusion from and marginality in relation to patriarchal society or, repressing 
the body of the mother, she identifies with the father, thus raising herself to 
his symbolic heights. Such an identification, however, not only deprives the 
woman of the maternal body, but also of her own. For Kristeva, the frigid 
figure of Electra, the daughter who kills her mother in order to avenge her 
father (the mother, Clytemnestra, having committed the unforgivable sin of 
taking a lover, thus exposing her female jouissance to the world), represents 
the father-identified woman who cannot tolerate the jouissance of the mother. 
But is she also, as Kristeva claims, the emblem of any woman who wants to 
escape her condition? 

In the chapter dealing with time, Kristeva presents us with a series of 
reflections on feinininity and its time, a theme she develops further in her 
influential essay 'Women's Time', also reprinted in this volume. Here she 
argues that the Judaeo-Christian culture represents woman as the unconscious 
of the symbolic order, as a timeless, drive-related jouissance, which through 
its very marginality threatens to break the symbolic chain. But again we face 
the same double bind: if women refuse this role as the unconscious 'truth' 
of patriarchy, they are forced instead to identify with the father, thus turning 
themselves into supporters of the very same patriarchal order. Kristeva argues 
for a refusal of this dilemma: women must neither refuse to insert themselves 
into the symbolic order, nor embrace the masculine model for femininity (the 
'homologous' woman) which is offered her there. Recognizing that such a task 
may well be impossible in the present situation, Kristeva finally turns to an 
examination of female suicide, notably that of female writers, workers of the 
word, such as Virginia Woolf, Maria Tsvetaeva and Sylvia Rath. 

About Chinese Women 



Yahweh Elohim created the world and concluded alliances by dividing 
(karath) light from darkness, the waters of the heavens from the waters 
of the earth, the earth from the seas, the creatures of the water from 
the creatures of the air, the animals each according to their kind and 
man (in His own image) from himself. It's also by division that He places 

140 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

them opposite each other: man and woman. Not without hesitation, 
though, for it is said at first that 'male and female created He them'. 
But this first version is quickly corrected by the story of Adam's rib. 
Later, the first female creature, due to the hesitation wherein man and 
woman are not all that separate, makes an ephemeral appearance in 
the form of the diabolical Lilith, an emanation of Sodom and Gomorrah 
(Isaiah xxxiv, 14), who crops up in several more or less heterodox 
exegeses, but not in the Bible itself. 

Divided from man, made of that very thing which is lacking in him, 
the biblical woman will be wife, daughter or sister, or all of them at 
once, but she will rarely have a name. Her function is to assure pro- 
creation - the propagation of the race. But she has no direct relation 
with the law of the community and its political and religious unity: God 
generally speaks only to men. Which is not to say that woman doesn't 
know more about Him; indeed, she is the one who knows the material 
conditions, as it were, of the body, sex and procreation, which permit 
the existence of the community, its permanence and thus man's very 
dialogue with his God. Besides, is the entire community not the bride 
of God? But woman's knowledge is corporal, aspiring to pleasure rather 
than tribal unity (the forbidden fruit seduces Eve's senses of sight and 
taste). It is an informulable knowledge, an ironic common sense (Sarah, 
pregnant at 90, laughs at this divine news); or else, when it serves social 
necessity, it's often in a roundabout way, after having violated the most 
ancient of taboos, that of incest (Sarah declared the sister of Abraham; 
Lot's daughters sleeping with their father). 

Long before the establishment of the people of Israel, the Northern 
Semites worshipped maternal divinities. Even while such worship 
continued, though, these farmers and shepherds had already begun to 
isolate the principle of a male, paternal divinity and a pantheon in the 
image of the family (father-mother-son). But Judaism was founded 
through and beyond this tradition, when, around 2000 BC, Egyptian 
refugees, nomads, brigands and insurgent peasants banded together, it 
seems, without any coherent ethnic origin, without land or State, seeking 
at first merely to survive as a wandering community. Jewish monotheism 
is undoubtedly rooted in this will to create a community in the face 
of all the unfavourable concrete circumstances: an abstract, nominal, 
symbolic community beyond individuals and their beliefs, but beyond 
their political organization as well. In fact, the Kingdom of David 
survived only a short while after its foundation in 1000 BC, preceded 

About Chinese Women 141 

by wars, and followed by discord, before becoming the vassal, and 
eventually the victim, of Babylonia. Devised to create a community, 
monotheism does not, however, accommodate itself to the political com- 
munity that is the State; initially it doesn't even help it. Monotheism 
does survive the State, however, and determine the direction the latter 
will take, even much later, through Christianity up to the various forms 
of modern technocracies, both religious and secular. But this is not the 
problem that concerns us here. Let us note that by establishing itself 
as the principle of a symbolic, paternal community in the grip of the 
superego, beyond all ethnic considerations, beliefs or social loyalties, 
monotheism represses, along with paganism, the greater part of agrarian 
civilizations and their ideologies, women and mothers. The Syrian 
goddess who was worshipped up until the beginning of the Christian 
era in the Armenian city of Hieropolis-Menbidj , or the numerous 
sacrifices to Ishtar, survive the biblical expurgation only in the shape 
of Deborah, the inspired warrior who accompanied the soldiers and 
celebrated their deeds, or else in the mouths of prophets who deplore 
idolatry, such as Jeremiah, the last of the pre-exile prophets, who 
denounced the cult of the 'Queen of the Heavens'. 

Consequently, no other civilization seems to have made the principle 
of sexual difference so crystal clear: between the two sexes a cleavage 
or abyss opens up. This gap is marked by their different relationship 
to the law (both religious and political), a difference which is in turn 
the very condition of their alliance. Monotheistic unity is sustained by 
a radical separation of the sexes: indeed, it is this very separation which 
is its prerequisite. For without this gap between the sexes, without this 
localization of the polymorphic, orgasmic body, desiring and laughing, 
in the other sex, it would have been impossible, in the symbolic realm, 
to isolate the principle of One Law - the One, Sublimating, Trans- 
cendent Guarantor of the ideal interests of the community. In the 
sphere of reproductive relations, at that time inseparably linked to relations 
of production, it would have been impossible to ensure the propaga- 
tion of the species simply by turning it into the highest premium 
of pleasure. 

There is one unity: an increasingly purified community discipline, 
that is isolated as a transcendent principle and which thereby ensures 
the survival of the group. This unity which is represented by the God 
of monotheism is sustained by a desire that pervades the community, 
a desire which is at once stirring and threatening. Remove this threatening 

142 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

desire, the dangerous support of cohesion, from man; place it beside 
him and create a supplement for what is lacking in this man who speaks 
to his God; and you have woman, who has no access to the word, but 
who appears as the pure desire to seize it, or as that which ensures the 
permanence of the divine paternal function for all humans: that is, the 
desire to continue the species. 

This people of shepherds and nomads setded only temporarily to 
found their community by means of the only durable bond in the steppes 
and the desert: the word. The shepherd (Abel, for example) will there- 
fore be sacrificed so that a lowly farmer can initiate the narrative of 
tribal wanderings. Invasions and exiles ensue: a sixth century BC of 
exodus, and a fifth century of temporary return to the land, with the 
invaders displaying a relative degree of tolerance. The word of the com- 
munity will consequently oscillate between prophecy and legislation, 
but it will always be a word that aims to gather together this society 
which history is bent on dispersing. We must not employ some vulgar 
form of sociology in order to attribute to climatic or socio-historic 
conditions the privilege granted to the word and the monotheistic 
transcendence that represents its agency in the southern Mediterranean 
basin. But the discovery, by one of the peoples of this region, of the 
specific form of religiosity known as monotheism (which had failed in 
Egypt after the attempts of Amen-Hotep IV) on the one hand 
corresponds to the function of human symbolism, which is to provide 
an agency of communication and cohesion despite the fact that it works 
through interdiction and division (thing/word, body /speech, pleasure/ 
law, incest/procreation. . .); while on the other hand it simultaneously 
represents the paternal function: patrilinear descent with transmission 
of the name of the father centralizes eroticism, giving it the single goal 
of procreation. It is thus caught in the grip of an abstract symbolic 
authority which refuses to recognise the growth of the child in the 
mother's body, something a matrilinear system of descent kept alive 
in the minds by leaving open certain possibilities of polymorphism, if 
not incest. If, with these two keys, one can consolidate a social group 
and make it resistant to any test of internal or external dissolution, one 
begins to understand that the monotheistic community acquires a vitality 
that allows it not only to survive geographic or historical threats, but 
to ensure an otherwise impossible development of productive forces by 
an infinite perfecting of goods and of means of production. This control 
ensures a productivist teleology: even if the threats of the prophets 

About Chinese Women 143 

disturb this teleology and keep it from degenerating into profiteering 
and the enjoyment of wealth, this does not in any way preclude the 
advantage that the property-owning classes derive from it for the 
perfecting of their economic and political power. 

The economy of this system requires that women be excluded from 
the single true and legislating principle, namely the Word, as well as 
from the (always paternal) element that gives procreation a social value: 
they are excluded from knowledge and power. The myth of the relation- 
ship between Eve and the serpent is the best summary of this exclusion. 
The serpent stands for the opposite of God, since he tempts Eve to 
transgress His prohibition. But he is also Adam's repressed desire to 
transgress, that which he dares not carry out, and which is his shame. 
The sexual symbolism helps us understand that the serpent is that which, 
in God or Adam, remains beyond or outside the sublimation of the 
Word. Eve has no relationship other than with that, and even then 
because she is its very opposite, the 'other race'. 

When Yahweh says to the serpent, 'I will put enmity between thee 
and woman, and between they seed {zero) and her seed (zero): it shall 
bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise (teshufenu) its heel {akev)\ He 
established the divergence - of race or 'seed' - between God and man 
on the one hand and woman on the other. Furthermore, in the second 
part of the sentence, woman disappears completely into seed: generation. 
But, even more essentially, Yahweh formulates the code of eroticism 
between the two seeds as though it were a code of war. An endless war, 
where he will lose his head (or his gland?), and she her trace, her limit, 
her succession (the threat, perhaps, to deprive her of descendants, if 
she takes herself to be all-powerful, and phallic?). It is a strange goal 
at all events, to follow on the heels of women, and one to be borne in 
mind when one is confronted with the bound feet of Chinese women, 
crushed in a way that is infinitely less decisive, but more painful and 
much more certain. 

St Augustine returns to this function of the serpent and offers a 
definition when he points out that it represents the 'sense of the body' 
but *belongs to the reason of science' and 'is dependent on cognition'; 
and when he thinks (must we believe that this is a consequence of the 
double nature of the 'sense of the body'?) that sexual difference, far 
from being a question of distinguishing between two individuals, 'can 
be discerned in a single human being': 

144 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

For this reason I have thought that the sense of the body should 
not be taken for the woman, since we see that it is common to 
us and beasts, and have preferred to take something which the 
beasts do not have, and have believed that it is more appropriate 
for the serpent to be understood as the sense of the body ... for 
these are the senses of the rational nature and pertain to the 
intelligence, but that five-fold sense of the body by which the 
corporeal species and movement are perceived, not only by us but 
also by the beasts . . . Whenever that carnal or animal sense, there- 
fore, introduces into this purpose of the mind, which uses the living 
force of reason in temporal and corporeal things for the purpose 
of carrying out its functions some inducement to enjoy itself, that 
is, to enjoy itself as a kind of private and personal good and not 
as a public and common good which is an unchangeable good, then 
the serpent, as it were, addresses the woman. But to consent to 
this inducement is to eat of the forbidden tree. 1 

If what woman desires is the very opposite of the sublimating Word 
and paternal legislation, she neither has nor is that opposite. All that 
remains for her is to pit herself constantly against that opposite in the 
very movement by which she desires it, to kill it repeatedly and then 
suffer endlessly: a radiant perspective on masochism, a masochism that 
is the price she must pay in order to be Queen. In a symbolic economy 
of production and reproduction centred on the paternal Word (the 
phallus, if you like), one can make a woman believe that she is (the 
phallus) even if she doesn't have it (the serpent, the penis): doesn't 
she have the child? In this way, social harmony is preserved: the structure 
functions, produces and reproduces. Without it, the very foundation 
of this society is endangered. 

We must stress that this last point, for its importance is overlooked. 
At best one is guilty of naivety if one considers our modern societies 
as simply patrilinear, or class-structured, or capitalist-monopolist, and 
omits the fact that they are at the same time (and never one without 
the other) governed by a monotheism whose essence is best expressed 
in the Bible: the 'paternal Word' sustained by a fight to the death 
between the two races (men/women). In this naivety, one forgets that 
whatever attacks this radical location of sexual difference, while still 
remaining within the framework of our patrilinear, class-structured, capitalist 
societies, is above all also attacking a fundamental discovery of Judaism 

About Chinese Women 145 

that lies in the separation of the sexes and in their incompatibility: in 
castration, if you like - the support of monotheism and the source of its 
eroticism. To wish to deny this separation and yet remain within the 
framework of patrilinear capitalist society and its monotheistic ideology 
(even when disguised as humanism) necessarily plunges one back into the 
petty perversion of fetishism. And we know the role that the pervert, 
with his invincible belief in the maternal phallus and his obstinate refusal 
to recognize the existence of the other sex, has been able to play in anti- 
semitism and the totalitarian movements that embrace it. Let us recall 
the fascist or social-fascist homosexual community (and all homosexual 
communities for whom there is no 'other race'), and the fact that it 
is inevitably flanked by a community of viragos who have forgotten 
the war of the sexes and identify with the paternal Word or its serpent. 
The feminist movements are equally capable of a similar perverse denial 
of biblical teaching. We must recognize this and be on our guard. 

On the other hand, there are analysts who do recognize this and, 
faithful to Freudian pessimism, accept the abyss between the two races; 
yet they go on to preach the impossibility of communication between 
the two, the iack of relation*. Here it is no longer a question of the 
war between the sexes: doesn't every psychiatrist have as a companion 
a 'dead woman', an aphasic mother, an inaudible haven of procreation, 
that ensures and reassures the 'analytic word'?. 

The solution? To go on waging the war beteen the two races without 
respite, without a perverse denial of the abyss that marks sexual dif- 
ference or a disillusioned mortification of the division. In the meantime, 
some other economy of the sexes installs itself, but not before it has 
transformed our entire logic of production (class) and reproduction 
(family). China will just be one more horizon, which we will be able 
to read once this transformation is complete. Before it has happened, 
however, that country is susceptible of functioning as just another 
perversion, another mortification (for example: the blindness of the left- 
winger who believes in Chinese chastity - the final discovery of a 
happiness that can be opposed to "bourgeois morality'). 


Universalist as it is, Christianity does associate women with the sym- 
bolic community, but only provided they keep their virginity. Failing 

146 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

that, they can atone for their carnal jouissance with their martyrdom. 
Between these two extremes, the mother participates in the community 
of the Christian Word not by giving birth to her children, but merely 
by preparing them for baptism. 

St Augustine once again offers a fairly cynical explanation for the 
basically economic reasons for this association of women with the 
Christian Word, which is secured at the price of the virginity represented 
by Mary and imitated by the female monastic orders. Quite simply, 
by the time of Augustine, the survival of the European community no 
longer depended on the accelerated propagation of the species, but rather 
on the participation by all men and women in the symbolic efforts 
(technical as well as ideological) to perfect the means and relations of 

But it would be very foolish, for the sake of enjoying marriage 
even at the present time, when the coming of Christ is not served 
through carnal generation by the very begetting of children, to 
take upon oneself the burden of this tribulation of the flesh which 
the Apostle predicts for those who marry - unless those who cannot 
remain continent feared that under the temptation of Satan they 
would fail into sins leading to damnation. 2 

Between this historical constraint and the myth of the Virgin impreg- 
nated by the Word there is still a certain distance, which will be bridged 
by two psychoanalytical processes, one relating to the role of the mother, 
the other to the workings of language. 

The first consists in ceasing to repress the fact that the mother is other, 
has no penis, but experiences jouissance and bears children. But this 
is acknowledged only at the pre-conscious level: just enough to imagine 
that she bears children, while censuring the fact that she has experienced 
jouissance in an act of coitus, that there was a 'primal scene'. Once 
more, the vagina and the jouissance of the mother are disregarded, and 
immediately replaced by that which puts the mother on the side of 
the socio-symbolic community: childbearing and procreation in the name 
of the father. This operation of false recognition - mis-recognition - 
of maternal jouissance is accomplished by a process whose origins Ernest 
Jones was the first to understand. Too hastily categorized simply as 
the biographer of Freud, Jones in fact deserves credit not only for having 
proposed one of the most interesting concepts of female sexuality, but 

About Chinese Women 147 

for having been the first to attempt an analysis of the sexual economy 
of the great Christian myths. So, in the Word and Breath celebrated 
by many religions of which Christianity is the chief, the psychoanalyst 
sees an emanation not of the glottal but of the anal sphincter. This 
sacrilegious theory, confirmed by the fantasies of analysands, tends to 
prove that impregnation by the fart (hiding behind its sublimation into 
Word) corresponds to the fantasy of anal pregnancy, of penetration or 
auto-penetration by an anal penis, and, in any case, of a confusion of 
anus and vagina: in short, to a denial of sexual difference. Such a scenario 
is probably more frequent among male subjects, and represents the way 
in which the small boy usurps the role of the mother, by denying his 
difference in order to submit himself in her place and as a woman to the 
father. In this homosexual economy, we can see that what Christianity 
recognizes in a woman, what it demands of her in order to include her 
within its symbolic order, is that by living or thinking of herself as a 
virgin impregnated by the Word, she should live and think of herself 
as a male homosexual. If, on the other hand, this identification with 
the homosexual does not succeed, if a woman is not a virgin, a nun, and 
chaste, but has orgasms and gives birth, her only means of gaining access 
to the symbolic paternal order is by engaging in an endless struggle 
between the orgasmic maternal body and the symbolic prohibition - 
a struggle that will take the form of guilt and mortification, and 
culminate in masochistic jouissance. For a woman who has not easily 
repressed her relationship with her mother, participation in the symbolic 
paternal order as Christianity defines it can only be masochistic. As 
St Augustine again so marvellously puts it: 'No-one, however, to my 
way of thinking, would ever prefer virginity to martyrdom' ('Holy 
Virginity', XLVII, 47). The ecstatic and the melancholic, two great female 
archetypes of Christianity, exemplify two ways in which a woman may 
participate in this symbolic Christian order. 

In the first discourse, the maternal traits are attributed to the symbolic 
father, the mother is denied by this displacement of her attributes 
and the woman then submits herself to a sexually undifferentiated 
androgynous being: 

But when this most wealthy Spouse desires to enrich and comfort 
the Bride still more, He draws her so closely to Him that she is 
like one who swoons from excess of pleasure and joy and seems 
to be suspended in those Divine arms and drawn near to that 

148 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

sacred side and to those Divine breasts. Sustained by that Divine 
milk with which her Spouse continually nourishes her and growing 
in grace so that she may be enabled to receive His comforts, she 
can do nothing but rejoice. Awakening from that sleep and 
heavenly inebriation, she is like one amazed and stupefied; well, 
I think, may her sacred folly wring these words from her: 'Thy 
breasts are better than wine'. 3 

At the same time, in the second discourse, submission to the father 
is experienced as punishment, pain and suffering inflicted upon the 
heterogeneous body. Such a confrontation provokes a melancholic 
jouissance whose most emotive eulogy is perhaps to be found in Catherine 
of Siena's treatise on the sensuality of tears. 

What is there in the psycho-sexual development of a little girl in 
monotheistic capitalist society that prepares her for this economy of 
which the ecstatic and the melancholic represent the two extremes of the 
attempt to gain access to the social order (to symbolism, power, 

There is increasing insistence on the importance of pre-Oedipal phases, 
oral and anal, in the subsequent development of both boy and girl. The 
child is bound to the mother's body without the latter being, as yet, 
a 'separate object'. Instead, the mother's body acts with the child's 
as a sort of socio-natural continuum. This period is dominated by the 
oral and anal drives of incorporation and aggressive rejection: hence 
the pleasure is auto-erotic as well as inseparable from the mother's body. 
Through language, the Oedipal phase introduces the symbolic agency, 
the prohibition of auto-eroticism and the recognition of the paternal 
function. As Jones once again points out, the boy as well as the girl 
must renounce his or her own pleasure in order to find an object of 
the opposite sex, or renounce his or her own sex in order to find a 
homogeneous pleasure that has no other as its object. But if such is the 
rule, it is realized differently in boys and in girls. When the boy does 
not identify with his mother to submit like a woman to his father, he 
becomes his father's rival for the mother's love, and the castration he 
experiences is rather a fear of 'aphanisis': fear of not being able to satisfy 
both her and himself. The girl also finds herself faced with a choice: 
either she identifies with the mother, or she raises herself to the symbolic 
stature of the father. In the first case, the pre-Oedipal stages (oral 
and anal eroticism) are intensified. By giving herself a male object (a 

About Chinese Women 149 

substitute for the father), she desires and appropriates him for herself 
through that which her mother has bequeathed her during the 'female' 
pre-Oedipal phase - i.e., through the oral-sadistic veil that accompanies 
the vaginal jouissance of heterosexual woman. If we perceive a sort of 
fundamental female 'homosexuality ' in this identification with the pre- 
Oedipal mother, we perceive at the same time that this has nothing 
whatever to do with male homosexuality, and is not superseded by the 
'female heterosexual'. In the second case, identification with the father, 
the girl represses the oral-sadistic stage, and at the same time represses 
the vagina and the possibility of finding someone else as her partner. 
(This situation can come about, for instance, by refusing the male 
partner, by feminizing the male partner or by assuming either a male 
or a female role in a relationship with a female partner.) The sadistic 
component of such an economy is so violent as to obliterate the vagina. 
In her imagination, the girl obtains a real or imaginary penis for herself; 
the imaginary acquisition of the male organ seems here to be less 
important than the access she gains to the symbolic mastery which is 
necessary to censor the pre-Oedipal stage and wipe out all trace of 
dependence on the mother's body. Obliteration of the pre-Oedipal stage, 
identification with the father, and then: 'I'm looking, as a man would, 
for a woman'; or else, 'I submit myself, as if I were a man who thought 
he was a woman, to a woman who thinks she is a man'. Such are the 
double or triple twists of what is commonly called female homosexuality, 
or lesbianism. The oral-sadistic dependence on the mother has been 
so strong that it now represents not simply a veil over the vagina, but 
a veritable blockade. Thus the lesbian never discovers the vagina, but 
creates from this restitution of pre-Oedipal drives (oral/anal, absorption/ 
rejection) a powerful mechanism of symbolization. Intellectual or artist, 
she wages a vigilant war against her pre-Oedipal dependence on her 
mother, which keeps her from discovering her own body as other, 
different, possessing a vagina. Melancholy - fear of aphanisis - 
punctuated by sudden bursts of energy marks the loss of the maternal 
body, this immediate investment of sadism in the symbolic. 

It is interesting to note that, on the level of speech, the pre-Oedipal 
stage corresponds to an intense echolalia, first in rhythm and then in 
intonation, before a phonologico-syntactic structure is imposed on the 
sentence. This latter is only totally achieved at the end of the Oedipal 
phase. It is obvious, then, that a reactivation of the pre-Oedipal 
phase in a man (by homosexuality or imaginary incest) creates in his 

150 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

pre-sentence speech an explosion of rhythm, intonation and nonsense: 
nonsense invades sense, and creates laughter. When he flees the symbolic 
paternal order (through fear of castration, Freud would say, through 
fear of aphanisis, Jones would say), man can laugh. But the daughter, 
on the other hand, is rewarded by the symbolic order when she iden- 
tifies with the father: only here is she recognized not as herself but in 
opposition to her rival, the mother with a vagina who experiences 
jouissance. Thus, at the price of censuring herself as a woman, she will 
be able to triumph in her henceforth sublimated sadistic attacks on the 
mother whom she has repressed and with whom she will always fight, 
either (as a heterosexual) by identifying with her, or (as a homosexual) 
by pursuing her erotically . Therefore the invasion of her speech by these 
unphrased, nonsensical, maternal rhythms, far from soothing her, or 
making her laugh, destroys her symbolic armour and makes her ecstatic, 
nostalgic or mad. Nietzsche would not have known how to be a woman. 
A woman has nothing to laugh about when the symbolic order collapses. 
She can take pleasure in it if, by identifying with the mother, the vaginal 
body, she imagines she is the sublime, repressed forces which return 
through the fissures of the order. But she can just as easily die from 
this upheaval, as a victim or a militant, if she has been deprived of a 
successful maternal identification and has found in the symbolic paternal 
order her one superficial, belated and easily severed link with life. 

Faithful to a certain biblical tradition, Freud saw the fear of castration 
as the essential moment in the formation of any psyche, male or female. 
Closer to Christianity, but also to the post-Romantic psychology which 
defines all characters according to the amorous relations, Jones proposed 
to find the determining element in psychic structure in aphanisis (the 
fear of losing the possibility of jouissance), rather than in castration. 
Perhaps it would not merely be a resurgence of Greek or logico- 
phenomenological thought to suggest locating this fundamental event 
neither in castration nor in aphanisis (both of which would be only its 
fantasmic derivatives), but rather in the process of learning the symbolic 
function to which the human animal is subjected from the pre-Oedipal 
phase onward. By symbolic function we mean a system of signs (first, 
rhythmic and intonational difference, then signifier/signified) which are 
organized into logico-syntactic structures whose aim is to accredit social 
communication as exchange purified of pleasure. From the beginning, 
then, we are dealing with a training process, an inhibition, which already 
begins with the first echolalias, but fully asserts itself with language- 

About Chinese Women 151 

learning. If the pre-Oedipal phase of this inhibition is still full of pleasure 
and not yet detached from the mother/child continuum, it already entails 
certain prohibitions: notably the training of the glottal and anal 
sphincters. And it is on the foundation of these prohibitions that the 
superego will be built. 

The symbolic order functions in our monotheistic West by means 
of a system of kinship that involves transmission of the name of the father 
and a rigorous prohibition of incest, and a system of speech that involves 
an increasingly logical, simple, positive and 'scientific' form of communi- 
cation, that is stripped of all stylistic, rhythmic and 'poetic' ambiguities. 
Such an order brings this inhibition constitutive of the speaking animal 
to a height never before attained, one logically assumed by the role of 
the father. The role of the 'mother' (the repressed element) includes 
not only the drives (of which the most basic is that of aggressive rejec- 
tion) but also, through the education of the sphincters, the first training 
of these drives in the oral/anal phase, marked by rhythms, intonations 
and gestures which as yet have no significance. 

Daughter of the father? Or daughter of the mother? 

As the Sophoclean chorus says, 'Never was a daughter more her 
father's daughter' than Electra. Not only does she incite vengeance; 
she is also the principal agent in the murder of her mother, more so 
than Orestes himself, for in the murder scene, is it not the voices of 
the daughter and the mother we hear while the son remains silent? It 
is a delusion to think that Orestes, an anti-Oedipus, has killed his mother 
to wrest himself thus from the family and move into a new community 
that is supra-familial and political: the city whose cult was already 
becoming an economic and political necessity in Greece. Faced with 
this murder, thought-out and spoken by Electra, of which Orestes is 
only the agent, one wonders if anti-Oedipal man is not a fiction, or, 
at all events, if he is not always appended to the jouissance of a wife- 
sister. There would be no unavenged dead father - no Resurrection 
of the Father - if that father did not have a (virgin) daughter. A daughter 
does not put up with the murder of a father. That the father is made 
a symbolic power - that is, that he is dead, and thus elevated to the 
rank of a Name - is what gives meaning to her life, which will henceforth 
be an eternal vendetta. Not that this fixation does not drive her mad: 
in vain Electra says that 'Only a madman could forget a father killed 
so heartlessly'; in vain does she accuse poor Girysothemis, 'her mother's 
daughter', of being demented, of forgetting her father; she cannot stop 

152 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

herself from being driven mad by her own activity. But her own 
madness, contrary to Chrysothemis' passive clinging to her mother, is 
what the leader of the chorus will call, at the end, an 'effort that crowns 
history', for without it, there would be no 'freedom', and no 'history' 
for the city from which, as woman, she is none the less alienated. For, 
in fact, this pursuit of the father's cause has a darker side to it: hatred 
of the mother, or, more precisely, hatred of her jouissance. Electra wants 
Clytemnestra dead, not because she is a mother who kills the father, 
but because she is a mistress (of Aegisthus). Let jouissance be forbidden 
to the mother: this is the demand of the father's daughter, fascinated 
by the mother's jouissance. And one can imagine how the city will depend 
on these fathers' daughters (given that a man can fulfil the office of 
daughter) in order to cover up the fact that the mother's jouissance is 
nourished by the war of the sexes and ends in the murder of the father. 
The Electras - 'deprived forever of their hymens' - militants in the 
cause of the father, frigid with exaltation - are they then dramatic figures 
emerging at the point where the social consensus corners any woman 
who wants to escape her condition: nuns, 'revolutionaries', even 

It takes a Mozart to make a comedy out of this fidelity of the daughter 
to the father. The dead father is retained in the guise of the Commander. 
Orestes is cut out and replaced with poor Ottavio. Aegisthus and 
Clytemnestra have no reason to exist: power and jouissance, following 
one upon the other in a radiant musical infinity, will be represented 
by Don Giovanni. So the heroic Electra becomes the pitiful, unhappy 
Donna Anna: the ill-treated hysteric, passionately in love with the death 
of her father, commemorating his murder - but without hope of revenge 
- in a hallucinatory monologue of bitterness and jubilation. Since history 
repeats itself only as farce, Donna Anna is a comic Electra: still a slave 
to her father, but to a father whose political and moral law are crumbling 
enough, by the eighteenth century, to allow Mozart not to treat it as 


The symbolic order - the order of verbal communication, the paternal 
order of genealogy - is a temporal order. For the speaking animal, it 
is the clock of objective time: it provides the reference point, and, 

About Chinese Women 153 

consequently, all possibilities of measurement, by distinguishing between 
a before, a now and an after. If / don't exist except in the speech I 
address to another, / am only present in the moment of that communica- 
tion. In relation to this present of my being, there is that which precedes 
and that which follows. My family lineage will also be placed in this 
before and after: the number of ancestors and future generations. Within 
these coordinates I shall project myself: a journey on the axis centred by 
the moment of my speech, exemplified by its most intimate phenomenon, 
my own family tree. This projection will not be a mere displacement 
of my present on to the future or on to someone else: it may also over- 
throw the well-oiled order of communication (and thus of society) or 
of descent (and thus of the family), if I project not the moment of my 
fixed, governed word, ruled by a series of inhibitions and prohibitions 
(ranging from rules to sexual taboos and economic, political and 
ideological constraints), but rather the underlying causality that shapes 
it, which I repress in order that I may enter the socio-symbolic order, 
and which is capable of blowing up the whole construct. 

'Underlying causality' - a figure of speech that alludes to the social 
contradictions that a given society can provisionally subdue in order 
to constitute itself as such. But a figure of speech that is also used to 
designate that 'other scene': the unconscious, drive-related and trans- 
verbal scene whose eruptions determine not only my speech or my inter- 
personal relationships, but even the complex relations of production 
and reproduction which we so frequently see only as dependent on, 
rather than shaping, the economy. 

No reference point in the unconscious; I still don't speak there. No 
now, no before, no after. No true or false either. It [fa] displaces, 
condenses, distributes. It retains everything repressed by the word: by 
sign, by sense, by communication, by the symbolic order, in whatever 
is legislating, paternal and restrictive. 

There is no time without speech. Therefore, there is no time without 
the father. That, incidentally, is what the Father is: sign and time. It 
is understandable, then, that what the father doesn't say about the un- 
conscious, what sign and time repress in the drives, appears as their 
truth (if there is no 'absolute', what is truth, if not the unspoken of 
the spoken?) and that this truth can be imagined only as a woman. 

A curious truth: outside time, with neither a before nor an after, neither 
true nor false; subterranean, it neither judges nor postulates, but refuses, 
displaces and breaks the symbolic order before it can re-establish itself. 

154 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

If a woman cannot be part of the temporal symbolic order except by 
identifying with the father, it is clear that as soon as she shows any 
sign of that which, in herself, escapes such identification and acts 
differently, resembling the dream or the maternal body, she evolves 
into this 'truth' in question. It is thus that female specificity defines 
itself in patrilinear society: woman is a specialist in the unconscious, 
a witch, a baccanalian, taking her jouissance in an anti- Apollonian, 
Dionysian orgy. 

A jouissance which breaks the symbolic chain, the taboo, the mastery. 
A marginal discourse, with regard to the science, religion and philosophy 
of the polis (witch, child, underdeveloped, not even a poet, at best his 
accomplice). A pregnancy: an escape from the temporality of day-to- 
day social obligations, an interruption of the regular monthly cycles, 
where the surfaces - skin, sight - are abandoned in favour of a descent 
into the depths of the body, where one hears, tastes and smells the 
infinitesimal life of the cells. Perhaps the notion that the period of gesta- 
tion approaches another temporality, more cosmic and 'objective' than 
human and 'subjective', is just another myth designed to restore time 
(even if different) at the very moment when time breaks up, before its 
product (the child) emerges. The child: sole evidence, for the symbolic 
order, of jouissance and pregnancy, thanks to whom the woman will 
be coded in the chain of production and thus perceived as a temporalized 
parent. Jouissance, pregnancy, marginal discourse: this is the way in 
which this 'truth', hidden and cloaked [derobent et enrobent] by the truth 
of the symbolic order and its time, functions through women. 

The artist (that imaginary committer of incest) suspects that it is from 
the mother's side that the unverifiable atemporal 'truth' of the symbolic 
order and its time springs out and explodes. The Western artist (that 
fetishist), then, raises this 'truth' to the skies by finding its symbol in 
the female body. Let us not even speak about the endless 'Madonnas 
with Child'. Let us take something less evangelical: Tiepolo's Time 
Disrobing Truth (Museum of Fine Arts at Boston, Massachusetts) for 
example. A scene of abduction, or of coitus? The enigma is emphasized 
by the anomaly of the design. Truth has a right leg where her left should 
be, and this leg is thrust forward, between herself and the genitals of 
Time. But his pain and her air of majesty do not deceive: their gaze 
is caught by two others who do not speak: the infant and the parrot. 
The arrows (of love?) and a mask are there to indicate the borrowed 
and indirect means by which 'truth', so armed, can not only trample 

About Chinese Women 155 

the globe underfoot, but steal Time's scythe [faux] and transform the 
latter into a fallen master, an angry servant. But in this fantasy, where 
a woman, intended to represent Truth, takes the place of the phallus 
(notably in Tiepolo's painting), she ceases to act as an atemporal, un- 
conscious force, splitting, defying and breaking the symbolic and 
temporal order, and instead substitutes herself for it as solar mistress, 
a priestess of the absolute. Once it is disrobed in order to be presented 
in itself, 'truth' is lost 'in itself; for in fact it has no self, it emerges 
only in the gaps of an identity. Once it is represented, even by the form 
of a woman, the 'truth' of the unconscious passes into the symbolic 
order, and even overshadows it, as fundamental fetish, phallus- 
substitute, support for all transcendental divinity. A crude but enor- 
mously effective trap for 'feminism': to acknowledge us, to turn us into 
the Truth of the temporal order, so as to keep us from functioning as 
its unconscious 'truth', an unrepresentable form beyond true and false, 
and beyond present-past-future. 

Until now this trap has always worked in the West. It seems to me, 
however, that far from being simply the affair of 'others' stubbornly 
refusing the specificity of women, the dilemma arises from a very 
profound structural mechanism concerning the casting of sexual dif- 
ference and even of discourse in the West. A woman finds herself caught 
here, and can't do much about it. But a few concrete results of this 
implacable structure can be noted. 

We cannot gain access to the temporal scene, that is, to the political 
and historical affairs of our society, except by identifying with the values 
considered to be masculine (mastery, superego, the sanctioning com- 
municative word that institutes stable social exchange). From Louise 
Michel to Alexandra Kollontai, to cite only two fairly recent examples 
- not to speak of the suffragettes or their contemporary Anglo-Saxon 
sisters, some of whom are more threatening than the father of the 
primitive horde - we have been able to serve or overthrow the socio- 
historic order by playing at being supermen. A few enjoy it: the most 
active, the most effective, the 'homosexual' women (whether they know 
it or not). Others, more bound to the mother, and more tuned in to 
their unconscious drives, refuse this role and sullenly hold back, neither 
speaking nor writing, in a permanent state of expectation, occasionally 
punctuated by some kind of outburst: a cry, a refusal, 'hysterical 
symptoms'. These two extremes condemn us either to being the most 
passionate servants of the temporal order and its apparatus of consolidation 

156 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

(the new wave: women ministers), or of subversion (the other new wave, 
always a little behind the first: the promotion of women in left-wing 
parties). Or else we will forever remain in a sulk in the face of history, 
politics and social affairs: symptoms of their failure, but symptoms 
destined for marginality or for a new mysticism. 

Let us refuse both these extremes. Let us know that an ostensibly 
masculine, paternal identification, because it supports symbol and time, 
is necessary in order to have a voice in the chapter of politics and history. 
Let us achieve this identification in order to escape a smug poly- 
morphism where it is so easy and comfortable for a woman to remain; 
and let us in this way gain entry to social practice. Let us right away 
be wary of the premium on narcissism that such an integration can carry: 
let us reject the development of a 'homologous* woman, who is finally 
capable and virile; and let us rather act on the socio-politico-historical 
stage as her negative: that is, act first with all those who refuse and 
'swim against the tide' - all who rebel against the existing relations of 
production and reproduction. But let us not take the role of Revolu- 
tionary either, whether male or female: let us on the contrary refuse 
all roles to summon this 'truth' situated outside time, a truth that is 
neither true nor false, that cannot be fitted in to the order of speech 
and social symbolism, that is an echo of our jouissance, of our mad words, 
of our pregnancies. But how can we do this? By listening; by recognizing 
the unspoken in all discourse, however Revolutionary, by emphasizing 
at each point whatever remains unsatisfied, repressed, new, eccentric, 
incomprehensible, that which disturbs the mutual understanding of the 
established powers. 

A constant alternation between time and its 'truth', identity and its 
loss, history and that which produces it: that which remains extra- 
phenomenal, outside the sign, beyond time. An impossible dialectic 
of two terms, a permanent alternation: never the one without the other. 
It is not certain that anyone here and now is capable of this. An analyst 
conscious of history and politics? A politician tuned into the un- 
conscious? Or, perhaps, a woman . . . 


For a woman, the call of the mother is not only a call from beyond 
time, or beyond the socio-political battle. With family and history at 

About Chinese Women 157 

an impasse, this call troubles the word: it generates hallucinations, 
voices, 'madness'. After the superego, the ego founders and sinks. It 
is a fragile envelope, incapable of staving off the irruption of this conflict, 
of this love which had bound the little girl to her mother, and which 
then, like black lava, had lain in wait for her all along the path of her 
desperate attempts to identify with the symbolic paternal order. Once 
the moorings of the word, the ego, the superego, begin to slip, life itself 
can't hang on: death quietly moves in. Suicide without a cause, or 
sacrifice without fuss for an apparent cause which, in our age, is usually 
political: a woman can carry off such things without tragedy, even 
without drama, without the feeling that she is fleeing a well-fortified 
front, but rather as though it were simply a matter of making an 
inevitable, irresistible and self-evident transition. 

I think of Virginia Woolf, who sank wordlessly into the river, her 
pockets weighed down with stones. Haunted by voices, waves, lights, 
in love with colours - blue, green - and seized by a strange gaiety 
that would bring on the fits of strangled, screeching laughter recalled 
by Miss Brown. Or I think of the dark corner of the deserted farm- 
house in the Russian countryside whee, a few months later in that 
same year of 1941, Maria Tsvetaeva, fleeing the war, hanged herself: 
the most rhythmic of Russian poets, whose drumbeats went further 
back in the memory of the Russian language than those of Mayakovsky, 
and who wrote: 'My problem (in writing verse, and my reader's prob- 
lem in understanding it) consists in the impossibility of my task: for 
example, to express the sigh a-a-a- with words (that is, meaning). With 
words/meanings to say the sound. Such that all that remains in the ear 
is a-a-a.' 

Or Sylvia Plath, another of those women disillusioned with meanings 
and words, who took refuge in lights, rhythms and sounds: a refuge 
that already announces, for those who know how to read her, her silent 
departure from life: 


After whose stroke the wood rings 

And the echoes! 

Echoes travelling 

Off from the centre like horses. 

158 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

Words dry and riderless, 

the indefatigable hoof-taps. 


From the bottom of the pool fixed stars 

Govern a life.'' 

When Dostoevsky's Kirilov commits suicide, it's to prove that his 
will is stronger than God's. By proving thus that the human ego possesses 
supreme power, he believes he is emancipating Man by putting him 
in the place of God. ('If I kill myself I become God' - 'God is necessary 
and therefore He must exist'). 

Something entirely different is at stake in Tsvetaeva's suicide: not 
to be, that is, in the final instance, to be God-, but to dissolve being itself, 
to free it of the word, of the self, of God. 'I don't want to die. I want 
not to be', she writes in her notes. 

In an analogous situation a man can imagine an all-powerful, though 
always insignificant, mother in order to 'legitimize' himself: to make him- 
self known, to lean on her and be guided by her through the social laby- 
rinth, though not without his own occasional ironic commentary. Mery- 
Laurent for Mallarm£, Madame Straus for 'httle Marcel' , Miss Weaver for 
Joyce, the series of fiancees taken and rejected by Kafka . . . For a woman, 
as soon as the father is not calling the tune and language is being torn apart 
by rhythm, no mother can serve as an axis for the sacred or for farce. If 
she tries to provide it herself, the result is so-called female homosexuality, 
identification with virility, or a tight rein on the least pre-Oedipal pleasure. 
And if no paternal legitimation comes along to dam up the inexhaustible 
non-symbolized drive, she collapses into psychosis or suicide. 

The triumph of narcissism? But that would be the most primal form 
of narcissism: the most archaic death-drive, that which precedes and 
therefore surpasses any identity, sign, order or belief. As a motive for 
revolutionary action, this drive, if it is strangled in the throat of history, 
can destroy the body itself. For Tsvetaeva, the failure of the Revolution, 
Soviet bureaucracy and the war are all features to be considered. But 
without faith - without testament. 

When, striving for access to the word and to time, she identifies with 
the father, she becomes a support for transcendence. But when she is 
inspired by that which the symbolic order represses, isn't a woman also 
the most radical atheist, the most committed anarchist? In the eyes of 
this society, such a posture casts her as a victim. But elsewhere? 

About Chinese Women 159 


St Augustine, The Trinity, tr. S. McKenna (Washington, DC: The Catholic University 

of America Press, 1963), p. 362 and pp. 359-60. My emphasis. 

St Augustine, 'Holy Virginity', in Treatises on Marriage and Other Subjects, tr. J. 

McQuade (New York: Fathers of the Church, 1955), p. 159. 

St Teresa of Jesus, 'Conceptions of the love of God', in The Complete Works, tr. 

and ed. E. Allison Peers (London: Sheed & Ward, 1946), vol. II, p. 384. 

S. Plath, Ariel (London: Faber, 1968), p. 86. 

Translated by Sean Hand 

Stabat Mater 

First published as 'Hdrethique de 1'amour' in Tel Quel, 74 (Winter 1977, 
pp. 30-49), this essay on the cult of the Virgin Mary and its implication for 
the Catholic understanding of motherhood and femininity was reprinted as 
'Stabat Mater' in Histoires d'amour (Paris: Denoel) in 1983. A slightly edited 
translation also entitled 'Stabat Mater' by Arthur Goldhammer appeared in 
Poetics Today, 6, 1-2 (1985), pp. 133-52. The present translation is taken from 
the forthcoming American edition of Histoires d'amour, to be published by 
Columbia University Press. The title 'Stabat Mater' refers to the Latin hymn 
on the agony of the Virgin Mary at the Crucifixion, set to music by many 
famous composers, not least Pergolesi. The opening words of the hymn, 'Stabat 
mater dolorosa . . . ', literally mean ' Stood the Mother, full of grief . . . ' At the 
time of its first publication this text was unique among Kristeva's essays not 
only for its free, easy and personal style, but also for its deliberate typographical 
fragmentation of the page. 

Kristeva's study of the Virgin Mother coincides with her own experience 
of maternity, recorded and reflected in the personal observations which break 
up the main body of the text. The first part of her essay summarizes the 
historical development of the cult of the Virgin, drawing on Marina Warner's 
Alone of All Her Sex: the myth and the cult of the Virgin Mary (London: 
Weidenfeld, 1976), a book well known to English-speaking readers. Her 
main concern, however, is to point out that today, due to the demise of 
the cult of the Virgin, and of religion in general, we are left without a satis- 
factory discourse on motherhood. Where the cult of the Virgin traditionally 
offered a solution to what Kristeva calls the problem of feminine paranoia, 
the decline of religion has left women with nothing to put in its place. 
Freud's contribution to this particular problem is more or less nil, she 
argues, and the feminist critique of the traditional representation of mother- 
hood has still not produced a new understanding of women's continued desire 
to have children. Listing the various psycho-social functions of the cult of the 
Virgin, Kristeva asks what it is that subtle, but now necessarily crumbling 
edifice ignores or represses in modern women's experience of motherhood. 

Stabat Mater 161 

In reply to her own question, she points to the need for a new understanding 
of the mother's body; the physical and psychological suffering of childbirth 
and of the need to raise the child in accordance with the Law; the mother- 
daughter relationship; and finally, the female foreclosure of masculinity. There 
is, then, an urgent need for a 'post-virginal' discourse on maternity, one which 
ultimately would provide both women and men with a new ethics: a 'herethics' 
encompassing both reproduction and death. 

Opening up a fascinating field of investigation, this essay is of particular 
interest to feminists. So far, Kristeva herself has not really followed up her 
own 'programme' for research into maternity, although Histaires d'amour as 
a whole does contain many valuable observations on the topic. 

Stabat Mater 

The paradox: mother or primary narcissism 

If it is not possible to say of a woman what she is (without ru nnin g the 
risk of abolishing her difference), would it perhaps be different con- 
cerning the mother, since that is the only function of the 'other sex' 
to which we can definitely attribute existence? And yet, there too, we 
are caught in a paradox. First, we live in a civilization where the 
consecrated (religious or secular) representation of femininity is absorbed 
by motherhood. If, however, one looks at it more closely, this mother- 
hood is the fantasy that is nurtured by the adult, man or woman, of 
a lost territory; what is more, it involves less an idealized archaic mother 
than the idealization of the relationship that binds us to her, one that 
cannot be localized - an idealization of primary narcissism. Now, when 
feminism demands a new representation of femininity, it seems to 
identify motherhood with that idealized misconception and, because 
it rejects the image and its misuse, feminism circumvents the real 
experience that fantasy overshadows. The result? - A negation or 
rejection of motherhood by some avant-garde feminist groups. Or else 
an acceptance - conscious or not - of its traditional representations by 
the great mass of people, women and men. 

Christianity is doubtless the most refined symbolic construct in which 
femininity, to the extent that it transpires through it - and it does so 
incessantly - is focused on Maternality. 1 Let us call 'maternal' the 


Women, Psychoanalysis , Politics 

FLASH - instant of time or of 
dream without time; in- 
ordinately swollen atoms of a 
bond, a vision, a shiver, a yet 
formless, unnameable embryo. 
Epiphanies. Photos of what is 
not yet visible and that 
language necessarily skims 
over from afar, allusively. 
Words that are always too 
distant, too abstract for this 
underground swarming of 
seconds, folding in 
unimaginable spaces. Writing 
them down is an ordeal of 
discourse, like love. What is 
loving, for a woman, the same 
thing as writing. Laugh. 
Impossible. Flash on the un- 
nameable, weavings of abstrac- 
tions to be torn. Let a body 
venture at last out of its 
shelter, take a chance with 
meaning under a veil of words. 
WORD FLESH. From one to 
the other, eternally, broken up 
visions, metaphors of the 

ambivalent principle that is bound 
to the species, on the one hand, 
and on the other stems from an 
identity catastrophe that causes the 
Name to topple over into the un- 
nameable that one imagines as 
feniininity, non-language or body. 
Thus Christ, the Son of man, when 
all is said and done is 'human' only 
through his mother - as if Christly 
or Christian humanism could only 
be a materialism (this is, besides, 
what some secularizing trends 
within its orbit do not cease 
claiming in their esotericism). And 
yet, the humanity of the Virgin 
mother is not always obvious, and 
we shall see how, in her being 
cleared of sin, for instance, Mary 
distinguishes herself from 
mankind. But at the same time the 
most intense revelation of God, 
which occurs in mysticism, is given 
only to a person who assumes 
himself as 'maternal'. Augustine, 
Bernard of Clairvaux, Meister 
Eckhart, to mention but a few, 
played the part of the Father's 

virgin spouses, or even, like 
Bernard, received drops of virginal milk directly on their lips. Freedom 
with respect to the maternal territory then becomes the pedestal upon 
which love of God is erected. As a consequence, mystics, those 'happy 
Schrebers' (Sollers) throw a bizarre light on the psychotic sore of 
modernity: it appears as the incapability of contemporary codes to tame 
the maternal, that is, primary narcissism. Uncommon and 'literary', 
their present-day counterparts are always somewhat oriental, if not 
tragical - Henry Miller who says he is pregnant, Artaud who sees himself 
as 'his daughters' or 'his mother' . . .It is the orthodox constituent of 
Christianity, through John Chrysostom's golden mouth, among others, 

Stabat Mater 163 

that sanctioned the transitional function of the Maternal by calling the 
Virgin a 'bond', a 'middle' or an 'interval', thus opening the door to 
more or less heretical identifications with the Holy Ghost. 

This resorption of feniininity within the Maternal is specific to many 
civilizations, but Christianity, in its own fashion, brings it to its peak. 
Could it be that such a reduction represents no more than a masculine 
appropriation of the Maternal, which, in line with our hypothesis, is 
only a fantasy masking primary narcissism? Or else, might one detect 
in it, in other respects, the workings of enigmatic sublimation? These 
are perhaps the workings of masculine sublimation, a sublimation just 
the same, if it be true that for Freud picturing Da Vinci, and even for 
Da Vinci himself, the taming of that economy (of the Maternal or of 
primary narcissism) is a requirement for artistic, literary or painterly 

Within that perspective, however, there are two questions, among 
others, that remain unanswered. What is there, in the portrayal of the 
Maternal in general and particularly in its Christian, virginal, one, that 
reduces social anguish and gratifies a male being; what is there that 
also satisfies a woman so that a commonality of the sexes is set up, 
beyond and in spite of their glaring incompatibility and permanent 
warfare? Beyond social and political demands, this takes the well-known 
'discontents' of our civilization to a level where Freud would not follow 
- the discontents of the species. 

A triumph of the unconscious in monotheism 

It would seem that the 'virgin' attribute for Mary is a translation error, 
the translator having substituted for the Semitic term that indicates the 
socio-legal status of a young unmarried woman the Greek word parthenos, 
which on the other hand specifies a physiological and psychological 
condition: virginity. One might read into this the Indo-European fascina- 
tion (which Dumezil analysed) 2 with the virgin daughter as guardian 
of paternal power; one might also detect an ambivalent conspiracy, 
through excessive spiritualization, of the mother-goddess and the 
underlying matriarchy with which Greek culture and Jewish monotheism 
kept struggling. The fact remains that Western Christianity has organ- 
ized that 'translation error', projected its own fantasies into it and 
produced one of the most powerful imaginary constructs known in the 
history of civilizations. 

164 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

The story of the virginal cult in Christianity amounts in fact to the 
imposition of pagan-rooted beliefs on, and often against, dogmas of the 
official Church. It is true that the Gospels already posit Mary's existence. 
But they suggest only very discreetly the immaculate conception of 
Christ's mother, they say nothing concerning Mary's own background 
and speak of her only seldom at the side of her son or during crucifixion. 
Thus Matthew 1.20 ('. . .the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a 
dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary 
home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the 
Holy Spirit" '), and Luke 1.34 ('Mary said to the angel, "But how can 
this come about since I do not know man?'"), open a door, a narrow 
opening for all that, but one that would soon widen thanks to apocryphal 
additions, on impregnation without sexuality; according to this notion 
a woman, preserved from masculine intervention, conceives alone with 
a 'third party', a non-person, the Spirit. In the rare instances when 
the Mother of Jesus appears in the Gospels, she is informed that filial 
relationship rests not with the flesh but with the name or, in other words, 
that any possible matrilinearism is to be repudiated and the symbolic 
link alone is to last. We thus have Luke 2.48-9 (' . . .his mother said 
to him, "My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried 
your father and I have been, looking for you. " ' 'Why were you looking 
for me?" he replied. "Did you not know that I must be busy with my 
father's affairs?" '), and also John 2.3-5 (' . . .the mother of Jesus said 
to him, "They have no wine." Jesus said, "Woman, why turn to 
me? 3 My hour has not come yet.") and 19.26-7 ('Seeing his mother 
and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, 
' 'Woman, this is your son. ' ' Then to the disciple he said, "This is your 
mother." And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in 
his home.'). 

Starting from this programmatic material, rather skimpy nevertheless, 
a compelling imaginary construct proliferated in essentially three 
directions. In the first place, there was the matter of drawing a parallel 
between Mother and Son by expanding the theme of the immaculate 
conception, inventing a biography of Mary similar to that of Jesus and, 
by depriving her of sin, to deprive her of death: Mary leaves by way 
of Dormition or Assumption. Next, she needed letters patent of nobility, 
a power that, even though exercised in the beyond, is none the less 
political, since Mary was to be proclaimed queen, given the attributes 
and paraphernalia of royalty and, in parallel fashion, declared Mother 

Stabat Mater 165 

of the divine institution on earth, the Church. Finally, the relationship 
with Mary and from Mary was to be revealed as the prototype of love 
relationships and followed two fundamental aspects of Western love: 
courtly love and child love, thus fitting the entire range that goes from 
sublimation to asceticism and masochism. 

Neither sex nor death 

Mary's life, devised on the model of the life of Jesus, seems to be the 
fruit of apocryphal literature. The story of her own miraculous con- 
ception, called 'immaculate conception', by Anne and Joachim, after 
a long, barren marriage, together with her biography as a pious maiden, 
show up in apocryphal sources as early as the end of the first century. 
Their entirety may be found in the Secret Book of James and also in 
one of pseudo-epigrapha, the Gospel according to the Hebrews (which 
inspired Giotto's frescos, for instance). Those 'facts' were quoted by 
Clement or Alexandria and Origen but not officially accepted; even 
though the Eastern Church tolerated them readily, they were translated 
into Latin only in the sixteenth century. Yet the West was not long 
before glorifying the life of Mary on its own but always under orthodox 
guidance. The first Latin poem, 'Maria', on the birth of Mary was 
written by the nun Hrotswith von Gandersheim (who died before 1002), 
a playwright and poet. 

Fourth-century asceticism, developed by the Fathers of the Church, 
was grafted on that apocryphal shoot in order to bring out and rationalize 
the immaculate conception postulate. The demonstration was based on 
a simple logical relation: the intertwining of sexuality and death. Since 
they are mutually implicated with each other, one cannot avoid the one 
without fleeing the other. This asceticism, applicable to both sexes, was 
vigorously expressed by John Chrysostom {On Virginity: 'For where 
there is death there is also sexual copulation, and where there is no death 
there is no sexual copulation either'); even though he was attacked by 
Augustine and Aquinas, he none the less fuelled Christian doctrine. 
Thus, Augustine condemned 'concupiscence' (epithumia) and posited 
that Mary's virginity is in fact only a logical precondition of Christ's 
chastity. The Orthodox Church, heir no doubt to a matriarchy that was 
more intense in Eastern European societies, emphasized Mary's virginity 
more boldly. Mary was contrasted with Eve, life with death (Jerome, 
Letter 22, 'Death came through Eve but life came through Mary'; 


Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

Irenaeus, 'Through Mary the snake becomes a dove and we are freed 
from the chains of death'). People even got involved in tortuous 
arguments in order to demonstrate that Mary remained a virgin after 
childbirth (thus the second Constantinople council, in 381, under 
Arianistic influence, emphasized the Virgin's role in comparison to 
official dogma and asserted Mary's perpetual virginity; the 451 council 
called her Aeiparthenos - ever virgin). Once this was established, Mary, 
instead of being referred to as Mother of man or Mother of Christ, would 
be proclaimed Mother of God: Theotokos. Nestorius, patriarch of 
Constantinople, refused to go along; Nestorianism, however, for all 
practical purposes died with the patriarch's own death in 451, and the 
path that would lead to Mary's deification was then clear. 

Very soon, within the complex 
relationship between Christ and his 
Mother where relations of God to 
mankind, man to woman, son to 
mother, etc. are hatched, the prob- 
lematics of time similar to that 
of cause loomed up. If Mary pre- 
ceded Christ and he originated in 
her if only from the standpoint of 
his humanity, should not the con- 
ception of Mary herself have been 
immaculate? For, if that were not 
the case, how could a being con- 
ceived in sin and harbouring it in 
herself produce a God? Some apoc- 
ryphal writers had not hesitated, 
without too much caution, to sug- 
gest such an absence of sin in 
Mary's conception, but the Fathers 
of the Church were more careful. 
Bernard of Clairvaux is reluctant 
to extol the conception of Mary by 
Anne, and thus he tries to check 
the homologation of Mary with 
Christ. But it fell upon Duns 
Scotus to change the hesitation 
over the promotion of a mother 

Head reclining, nape finally 
relaxed, skin, blood, nerves 
warmed up, luminous flow: 
stream of hair made of ebony, 
of nectar, smooth darkness 
through her fingers, gleaming 
honey under the wings of bees, 
sparkling strands burning 
bright. . .silk, mercury, ductile 
copper: frozen light warmed 
under fingers. Mane of beast - 
squirrel, horse, and the 
happiness of a faceless head, 
Narcissus-like touching without 
eyes, slight dissolving in 
muscles, hair, deep, smooth, 
peaceful colours. Mamma: 

Taut eardrum, tearing sound 
out of muted silence. Wind 
among grasses, a seagull's 
faraway call, echoes of waves, 
auto horns, voices, or nothing? 
Or his own tears, my newborn, 

Stabat Mater 


spasm of syncopated void. I 
no longer hear anything, but 
the eardrum keeps transmitting 
this resonant vertigo to my 
skull, the hair. My body is no 
longer mine, it doubles up, 
suffers, bleeds, catches cold, 
puts its teeth in, slobbers, 
coughs, is covered with 
pimples, and it laughs. And 
yet, when its own joy, my 
child's, returns, its smile 
washes only my eyes. But the 
pain, its pain - it comes from 
inside, never remains apart, 
other, it inflames me at once, 
without a second's respite. As 
if that was what I had given 
birth to and, not willing to part 
from me, insisted on coming 
back, dwelled in me perma- 
nently. One does not give birth 
in pain, one gives birth to 
pain: the child represents it 
and henceforth it settles in, it 
is continuous. Obviously you 
may close your eyes, cover up 
your ears, teach courses, run 
errands, tidy up the house, 
think about objects, subjects. 
But a mother is always 
branded by pain, she yields to 
it. 'And a sword will pierce 
your own soul too . . . ' 

Dream without glow, without 
sound, dream of brawn. Dark 
twisting, pain in the back, the 
arms, the thighs - pincers 

goddess within Christianity into a 
logical problem, thus saving them 
both, the Great Mother as well as 
logic. He viewed Mary's birth as 
a praeredemptio, as a matter of con- 
gruency: if it be true that Christ 
alone saves us through his redemp- 
tion on the cross, the Virgin who 
bore him can but be preserved 
from sin in 'recursive' fashion, 
from the time of her own concep- 
tion up to that redemption. 

For or against, with dogma or 
logical shrewdness, the battle 
around the Virgin intensified 
between Jesuits and Dominicans, 
but the Counter-Reformation, as is 
well known, finally ended the 
resistance: henceforth, Catholics 
venerated Mary in herself. The 
Society of Jesus succeeded in com- 
pleting a process of popular 
pressure distilled by patristic 
asceticism, and in reducing, with 
neither explicit hostility nor brutal 
rejection, the share of the Maternal 
(in the sense given above) useful to 
a certain balance between the two 
sexes. Curiously and necessarily, 
when that balance began to be 
seriously threatened in the nine- 
teenth century, the Catholic 
Church - more dialectical and 
subde here than the Protestants 
who were already spawning the 
first suffragettes - raised the 
Immaculate Conception to dogma 
status in 1854. It is often suggested 
that the blossoming of feminism 


Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

turned into fibres, infernos 
bursting veins, stones breaking 
bones: grinders of volumes, 
expanses, spaces, lines, points. 
All those words, now, ever 
visible things to register the 
roar of a silence that hurts all 
over. As if a geometry ghost 
could suffer when collapsing in 
a noiseless tumult. . .Yet the 
eye picked up nothing, the ear 
remained deaf. But everything 
swarmed, and crumbled, and 
twisted, and broke - the 
grinding continued. . .Then, 
slowly, a shadowy shape 
gathered, became detached, 
darkened, stood out: seen 
from what must be the true 
place of my head, it was the 
right side of my pelvis. Just 
bony, sleek, yellow, 
misshapen, a piece of my body 
jutting out unnaturally, unsym- 
metrically, but slit: severed 
scaly surface, revealing under 
this disproportionate pointed 
limb the fibres of a marrow. . . 
Frozen placenta, live limb of a 
skeleton, monstrous graft of 
life on myself, a living dead. 
Life. . .death. . .undecidable. 
During delivery it went to the 
left with the afterbirth. . .My 
removed marrow, which never- 
theless acts as a graft, which 
wounds but increases me. 
Paradox: deprivation and 
benefit of childbirth. But calm 

in Protestant countries is due, 
among other things, to the greater 
initiative allowed women on the 
social and ritual plane. One might 
wonder if, in addition, such a 
flowering is not the result of a lack 
in the Protestant religious structure 
with respect to the Maternal, 
which, on the contrary, was 
elaborated within Catholicism with 
a refinement to which the Jesuits 
gave the final touch, and which 
still makes Catholicism very dif- 
ficult to analyse. 

The fulfilment, under the name 
of Mary, of a totality made of 
woman and God is finally accom- 
plished through the avoidance of 
death. The Virgin Mary experi- 
ences a fate more radiant than her 
son's: she undergoes no Calvary, 
she has no tomb, she doesn't die 
and hence has no need to rise from 
the dead. Mary doesn't die but, as 
if to echo oriental beliefs, Taoist 
among others, according to which 
human bodies pass from one place 
to another in an eternal flow that 
constitutes a carbon copy of the 
maternal receptacle - she is 

Her transition is more passive in 
the Eastern Church: it is a Dormi- 
tion (Koimesis) during which, 
according to a number of icono- 
graphic representations, Mary can 
be seen changed into a little girl 
in the arms of her son who hence- 
forth becomes her father; she thus 

Stabat Mater 169 

finally hovers over pain, over reverses her role as Mother into a 
the terror of this dried branch Daughter's role for the greater 
that comes back to life, cut pleasure of those who enjoy 

off, wounded, deprived of its Freud's 'Theme of the Three 
sparkling bark. The calm of Caskets'. 

another life, the life of that Indeed, mother of her son and his 

other who wends his way while daughter as well, Mary is also, and 
I remain henceforth like a besides, his wife: she therefore 

framework. Still life. There is actualizes the threefold metamor- 
him, however, his own flesh, phosis of a woman in the tightest 
which was mine yesterday. parenthood structure. From 1135 

Death, then, how could I on, transposing the Song of Songs, 

yield to it? Bernard of Clairvaux glorifies 

Mary in her role of beloved and 
wife. But Catherine of Alexandria 
(said to have been martyred in 307) already pictured herself as receiving 
the wedding ring from Christ, with the Virgin's help, while Catherine 
of Siena (1347-80) goes through a mystical wedding with him. Is it the 
impact of Mary's function as Christ's beloved and wife that is responsible 
for the blossoming out of the Marian cult in the West after Bernard 
and thanks to the Cistercians? * Vergine Madre y figlia del two Figlio\ Dante 
exclaims, thus probably best condensing the gathering of the three 
feminine functions (daughter- wife-mother) within a totality where they 
vanish as specific corporealities while retaining their psychological 
functions. Their bond makes up the basis of unchanging and timeless 
spirituality; 'the set time limit of an eternal design' [Terminefisso d'etemo 
consiglio], as Dante masterfully points out in his Divine Comedy. 

The transition is more active in the West, with Mary rising body and 
soul towards the other world in an Assumption. That feast, honoured 
in Byzantium as early as the fourth century, reaches Gaul in the seventh 
under the influence of the Eastern Church; but the earliest Western 
visions of the Virgin's assumption, women's visions (particularly that 
of Elizabeth von Schonau who died in 1 164), date only from the twelfth 
century. For the Vatican, the Assumption became dogma only in 1950. 
What death anguish was it intended to soothe after the conclusion of 
the deadliest of wars? 

170 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

Image of power 

On the side of 'power', Maria Regina appears in imagery as early as 
the sixth century in the church of Santa Maria Antiqua in Rome. 
Interestingly enough, it is she, woman and mother, who is called upon 
to represent supreme earthly power. Christ is king but neither he nor 
his father are pictured wearing crowns, diadems, costly paraphernalia 
and other external signs of abundant material goods. That opulent 
infringement to Christian idealism is centred on the Virgin Mother. 
Later, when she assumed the title of Our Lady, this will also be in 
analogy to the earthly power of the noble feudal lady of medieval courts. 
Mary's function as guardian of power, later checked when the Church 
became wary of it, nevertheless persisted in popular and pictural 
representation, witness Piero della Francesca's impressive painting, 
Madonna della Misericordia, which was disavowed by Catholic authorities 
at the time. And yet, not only did the papacy revere more and more 
the Christly mother as the Vatican's power over cities and municipalities 
was strengthened, it also openly identified its own institution with the 
Virgin: Mary was officially proclaimed Queen by Pius XII in 1954 and 
Mater Ecclesiae in 1964. 

Eia Mater, fons amoris! 

Fundamental aspects of Western love finally converged on Mary. In 
a first step, it indeed appears that the Marian cult homologizing Mary 
with Jesus and carrying asceticism to the extreme was opposed to courtly 
love for the noble lady, which, while representing social transgression, 
was not at all a physical or moral sin. And yet, at the very dawn of 
a 'courtliness' that was still very carnal, Mary and the Lady shared one 
common trait: they are the focal point of men's desires and aspirations. 
Moreover, because they were unique and thus excluded all other women, 
both the Lady and the Virgin embodied an absolute authority the more 
attractive as it appeared removed from paternal sternness. This feminine 
power must have been experienced as denied power, more pleasant to 
seize because it was both archaic and secondary, a kind of substitute 
for effective power in the family and the city but no less authoritarian, 
the underhand double of explicit phallic power. As early as the thir- 
teenth century, thanks to the implantation of ascetic Christianity and 

Stabat Mater 


especially, as early as 1328, to the promulgation of Salic laws, which 
excluded daughters from the inheritance and thus made the loved one 
very vulnerable and coloured one's love for her with all the hues of 
the impossible, the Marian and courtly streams came together. Around 
Blanche of Castile (who died in 1252) the Virgin explicitly became the 
focus of courtly love, thus gathering the attributes of the desired woman 
and of the holy mother in a totality as accomplished as it was inaccessible. 
Enough to make any woman suffer, any man dream. One finds indeed 
in a Miracle de Notre Dame the story of a young man who abandons 
his fiancee for the Virgin: the latter came to him in a dream and 
reproached him for having left her for an 'earthly woman'. 

Nevertheless, besides that ideal totality that no individual woman 
could possibly embody, the Virgin also became the fulcrum of the 

humanization of the West in 
general and of love in particular. 
It is again about the thirteenth 
century, with Francis of Assisi, 
that this tendency takes shape with 
the representation of Alary as poor, 
modest and humble - madonna of 
humility at the same time as a 
devoted, fond mother. The famous 
nativity of Piero della Francesca in 
London, in which Simone de 
Beauvoir too hastily saw a feminine 
defeat because the mother kneeled 
before her barely born son, in fact 
consolidates the new cult of 
humanistic sensitivity. It replaces 
the high spirituality that 
assimilated the Virgin to Christ 
with an earthly conception of a 
wholly human mother. As a source 
for the most popularized pious 
images, such maternal humility 
comes closer to * lived' feminine 
experience than the earlier repre- 
sentations did. Beyond this, how- 
ever, it is true that it integrates a 

Scent of milk, dewed greenery, 
acid and clear, recall of wind, 
air, seaweed (as if a body lived 
without waste): it slides under 
the skin, does not remain in 
the mouth or nose but fondles 
the veins, detaches skin from 
bones, inflates me like an 
ozone balloon, and I hover 
with feet firmly planted on the 
ground in order to carry him, 
sure, stable, ineradicable, 
while he dances in my neck, 
flutters with my hair, seeks a 
smooth shoulder on the right, 
on the left, slips on the breast, 
swingles, silver vivid blossom 
of my belly, and finally flies 
away on my navel in his dream 
carried by my hands. My son. 

Nights of wakefulness, 
scattered sleep, sweetness of 
the child, warm mercury in my 


Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

arms, cajolery, affection, 
defenceless body, his or mine, 
sheltered, protected. A wave 
swells again, when he goes to 
sleep, under my skin - tummy, 
thighs, legs: sleep of the 
muscles, not of the brain, 
sleep of the flesh. The wakeful 
tongue quietly remembers 
another withdrawal, mine: a 
blossoming heaviness in the 
middle of the bed, of a hollow, 
of the sea. . .Recovered 
childhood, dreamed peace 
restored, in sparks, flash of 
cells, instants of laughter, 
smiles in the blackness of 
dreams, at night, opaque joy 
that roots me in her bed, my 
mother's, and projects him, a 
son, a butterfly soaking up 
dew from her hand, there, 
nearby, in the night. Alone: 
she, I and he. 

He returns from the depths 
of the nose, the vocal chords, 
the lungs, the ears, pierces 
their smothering stopping 
sickness swab, and awakens in 
his eyes. Gentleness of the 
sleeping face, contours of 
pinkish jade - forehead, 
eyebrows, nostrils, cheeks, 
parted features of the mouth, 
delicate, hard, pointed chin. 
Without fold or shadow, 
neither being nor unborn, 
neither present nor absent, but 
real, real inaccessible 

certain feminine masochism but 
also displays its counterpart in 
gratification and jouissance. The 
truth of it is that the lowered head 
of the mother before her son is 
accompanied by the immeasurable 
pride of the one who knows she is 
also his wife and daughter. She 
knows she is destined to that eter- 
nity (of the spirit or of the species), 
of which every mother is uncon- 
sciously aware, and with regard to 
which maternal devotion or even 
sacrifice is but an insignificant 
price to pay. A price that is borne 
all the more easily since, contrasted 
with the love that binds a mother 
to her son, all other 'human rela- 
tionships' burst like blatant shams. 
The Franciscan representation of 
the Mother conveys many essential 
aspects of maternal psychology, 
thus leading up to an influx of 
common people to the churches and 
also a tremendous increase in the 
Marian cult - witness the building 
of many churches dedicated to her 
('Notre Dame'). Such ahumaniza- 
tion of Christianity through the cult 
of the mother also lead to an interest 
in the humanity of the father-man: 
the celebration of 'family life' 
showed Joseph to advantage as 
early as the fifteenth century. 

What body? 

We are entitled only to the ear of 
the virginal body, the tears and the 

Stabat Mater 


innocence, engaging weight 
and seraphic lightness. A 
child? - An angel, a glow on 
an Italian painting, impassive, 
peaceful dream - dragnet of 
Mediterranean fishermen. And 
then, the mother-of-pearl bead 
awakens: quicksilver. Shiver of 
the eyelashes, imperceptible 
twitch of the eyebrows, quiver- 
ing skin, anxious reflections, 
seeking, knowing, casting their 
knowledge aside in the face of 
my non-knowledge: fleeting 
irony of childhood gentleness 
that awakens to meaning, sur- 
passes it, goes past it, causes 
me to soar in music, in dance. 
Impossible refinement, subtle 
rape of inherited genes: before 
what has been learned comes 
to pelt him, harden him, ripen 
him. Hard, mischievous gentle- 
ness of the first ailment over- 
come, innocent wisdom of the 
first ordeal undergone, yet 
hopeful blame on account of 
the suffering I put you 
through, by calling for you, 
desiring, creating. . .Gentle- 
ness, wisdom, blame: your 
face is already human, 
sickness has caused you to 
join our species, you speak 
without words but your throat 
no longer gurgles - it harkens 
with me to the silence of your 
born meaning that draws my 
tears toward a smile. 

breast. With the female sexual 
organ changed into an innocent 
shell, holder of sound, there arises 
a possible tendency to eroticize 
hearing, voice or even understand- 
ing. By the same token, however, 
sexuality is brought down to the 
level of innuendo. Feminine sexual 
experience is thus rooted in the 
universality of sound, since it is 
distributed equally among all 
men, all women. A woman will 
only have the choice to live her 
life either hyper-abstractly (*im- 
mediately universal', Hegel said) 
in order thus to earn divine 
grace and homologation with 
symbolic order; or merely different, 
other, fallen ('immediately particu- 
lar', Hegel said). But she will not 
be able to accede to the complexity 
of being divided, of heterogeneity, 
of the catastrophic-fold-of-'being' 
('never singular', Hegel said). 

Under a full blue dress, the 
maternal, virginal body allowed 
only the breast to show, while 
the face, with the stiffness of 
Byzantine icons gradually softened, 
was covered with tears. Milk and 
tears became the privileged signs 
of the Mater Dolorosa who invaded 
the west beginning with the 
eleventh century, reaching the 
peak of its influx in the fourteenth. 
But it never ceased to fill the 
Marian visions of those, men or 
women (often children), who were 
racked by the anguish of a maternal 


Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

The lover gone, forgetfulness 
comes, but the pleasure of the 
sexes remains, and there is 
nothing lacking. No represen- 
tation, sensation or recall. 
Inferno of vice. Later, forget- 
fulness returns but this time as 
a fall - leaden - grey, dull, 
opaque. Forgetfulness: blinding, 
smothering foam, but on the 
quiet. Like the fog that devours 
the park, wolfs down the 
branches, erases the green, rusty 
ground and mists up my eyes. 

Absence, inferno, forget- 
fulness. Rhythm of our loves. 

A hunger remains, in place 
of the heart. A spasm that 
spreads, runs through the 
blood vessels to the tips of the 
breasts, to the tips of the 
fingers. It throbs, pierces the 
void, erases it and gradually 
settles in. My heart: a tremem- 
dous pounding wound. A 

Anguished, guilty. Freud's 
Vaterkomplex on the Acropolis? 
The impossibility of being 
without repeated legitimation 
(without books, man, family). 
Impossibility - depressing 
possibility - of 'transgression'. 

Either repression in which I 
hand the other what I want 
from others. 

Or this squalling of the void, 
open wound in my heart, 

frustration. Even though orality - 
threshold of infantile regression - 
is displayed in the area of the 
breast, while the spasm at the slip- 
ping away of eroticism is translated 
into tears, this should not conceal 
what milk and tears have in com- 
mon: they are the metaphors of 
non-speech, of a 'semiotics' that 
linguistic communication does not 
account for. The Mother and her 
attributes, evoking sorrowful 
humanity, thus become represen- 
tatives of a 'return of the 
repressed' in monotheism. They 
re-establish what is non-verbal and 
show up as the receptacle of a 
signifying disposition that is closer 
to so-called primary processes. 
Without them the complexity of 
the Holy Ghost would have been 
mutilated. On the other hand, as 
they return by way of the Virgin 
Mother, they find their outlet in 
the arts - painting and music - of 
which the Virgin necessarily 
becomes both patron saint and 
privileged object. 

The function of this * Virginal 
Maternal' may thus be seen taking 
shape in the Western symbolic 
economy. Starting with the high 
Christly sublimation for which 
it yearns and occasionally exceeds, 
and extending to the extra- 
linguistic regions of the unname- 
able, the Virgin Mother occupied 
the tremendous territory hither 
and yon of the parenthesis of 

Stabat Mater 


which allows me to be only in 

I yearn for the Law. And 
since it is not made for me 
alone, I venture to desire out- 
side the law. Then, narcissism 
thus awakened - the 
narcissism that wants to be sex 
- roams, astonished. In 
sensual rapture I am 
distraught. Nothing reassures, 
for only the law sets anything 
down. Who calls such a 
suffering jouissance} It is the 
pleasure of the damned. 

language. She adds to the Christian 
trinity and to the Word that 
delineates their coherence the 
heterogeneity they salvage. 

The ordering of the maternal 
libido reached its apotheosis when 
centred in the theme of death. The 
Mater Dolorosa knows no 
masculine body save that of her 
dead son, and her only pathos 
(which contrasts with the 
somewhat vacant, gentle serenity 
of the nursing Madonnas) is her 
shedding tears over a corpse. Since 
resurrection there is, and, as 
Mother of God, she must know 
this, nothing justifies Mary's 
outburst of pain at the foot of the cross, unless it be the desire to 
experience within her own body the death of a human being, which her 
feroinine fate of being the source of life spares her. Could it be that the 
love, as puzzling as it is ancient, of mourners for corpses relates to the 
same longing of a woman whom nothing fulfills - the longing to experience 
the wholly masculine pain of a man who expires at every moment on 
account of jouissance due to obsession with his own death? And yet, 
Marian pain is in no way connected with tragic outburst: joy and even a 
kind of triumph follow upon tears, as if the conviction that death does 
not exist were an irrational but unshakeable maternal certainty, on which 
the principle of resurrection had to rest. The brilliant illustration of 
the wrenching between desire for the masculine corpse and negation 
of death, a wrenching whose paranoid logic cannot be overlooked, is 
masterfully presented by the famous Stabat Mater. It is likely that all 
beliefs in resurrections are rooted in mythologies marked by the strong 

dominance of a mother goddess. 
Christianity, it is true, finds its 
Belief in the mother is rooted calling in the displacement of that 
in fear, fascinated with a bio-maternal determinism through 

weakness - the weakness of the postulate that immortality is 

language. If language is mainly that of the name of the 

powerless to locate myself for Father. But it does not succeed in 


Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

and state myself to the other, I 
assume - I want to believe - 
that there is someone who 
makes up for that weakness. 
Someone, of either sex, before 
the id speaks, before language, 
who might make me be by 
means of borders, separations, 
vertigos. In asserting that 'in 
the beginning was the Word', 
Christians must have found 
such a postulate sufficiently 
hard to believe and, for 
whatever it was worth, they 
added its compensation, its 
permanent lining: the maternal 
receptacle, purified as it might 
be by the virginal fantasy. 
Archaic maternal love would 
be an incorporation of my suf- 
fering that is unfailing, unlike 
what often happens with the 
lacunary network of signs. In 
that sense, any belief, 
anguished by definition, is 
upheld by the fascinated fear 
of language's impotence. Every 
God, even including the God 
of the Word, relies on a 
mother Goddess. Christianity 
is perhaps also the last of the 
religions to have displayed in 
broad daylight the bipolar 
structure of belief: on the one 
hand, the difficult experience 
of the Word - a passion; on 
the other, the reassuring wrap- 
ping in the proverbial mirage 
of the mother - a love. For 

imposing its symbolic revolution 
without relying on the feminine 
representation of an immortal 
biology. Mary defying death is the 
theme that has been conveyed to 
us by the numerous variations of 
the Stabat Mater, which, in the text 
attributed to Jacopone da Todi, 
enthralls us today through the 
music of Palestrina, Pergolesi, 
Haydn and Rossini. 

Let us listen to the baroque style 
of the young Pergolesi (1710-36) 
who was dying of tuberculosis 
when he wrote his immortal Stabat 
Mater. His musical inventiveness, 
which, through Haydn, later re- 
verberated in the work of Mozart, 
probably constitutes his one and 
only claim to immortality. But 
when this cry burst forth, referring 
to Mary facing her son's death, 
'Eia Mater, fons amorisP ('Hail 
mother, source of love!') - was it 
merely a remnant of the period? 
Man overcomes the unthinkable of 
death by postulating maternal love 
in its place - in the place and stead 
of death and thought. This love, 
of which divine love is merely a not 
always convincing derivation, 
psychologically is perhaps a recall, 
on the near side of early identifica- 
tions, of the primal shelter that 
ensured the survival of the 
newborn. Such a love is in fact, 
logically speaking, a surge of 
anguish at the very moment when 
the identity of thought and living 

Stabat Mater 


that reason, it seems to me 
that there is only one way to 
go through the religion of the 
Word, or its counterpart, the 
more or less discreet cult of 
the Mother; it is the 'artists' ' 
way, those who make up for 
the vertigo of language 
weakness with the oversatura- 
tion of sign- systems. By this 
token, all art is a kind of 
counter-reformation, an 
accepted baroqueness. For is 
it not true that if the Jesuits 
finally did persuade the official 
Church to accept the cult of 
the Virgin, following the 
puritanical wave of the Refor- 
mation, that dogma was in fact 
no more than a pretext, and its 
efficacy lay elsewhere? It did 
not become the opposite of the 
cult of the mother but its 
inversion through expenditure 
in the wealth of signs that 
constitutes the baroque. The 
latter renders belief in the 
Mother useless by overwhelm- 
ing the symbolic weakness 
where she takes refuge, 
withdrawn from history, with 
an overabundance of 

The immeasurable, uncon- 
finable maternal body. 

First there is the separation, 
previous to pregnancy, but 
which pregnancy brings to 

body collapses. The possibilities of 
communication having been swept 
away, only the subtle gamut of 
sound, touch and visual traces, 
older than language and newly 
worked out, are preserved as an 
ultimate shield against death. It is 
only ' normal ' for a maternal repre- 
sentation to set itself up at the 
place of this subdued anguish 
called love. No one escapes it. 
Except perhaps the saint, the 
mystic or the writer who, through 
the power of language, never- 
theless succeeds in doing no better 
than to take apart the fiction of the 
mother as mainstay of love, and to 
identify with love itself and what 
he is in fact - a fire of tongues, an 
exit from representation. Might 
not modern art then be, for the few 
who are attached to it, the imple- 
mentation of that maternal love - 
a veil of death, in death's very site 
and with full knowledge of the 
facts? A sublimated celebration of 
incest . . . 

Alone of her sex 

Freud collected, among other 
objects of art and archaeology, 
countless statuettes representing 
mother goddesses. And yet his 
interest in them comes to light only 
in discreet fashion in his work. It 
shows up when Freud examines 
artistic creation and homosexuality 
in connection with Leonardo da 


Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

light and imposes without 

On the one hand - the 
pelvis: centre of gravity, un- 
changing ground, solid 
pedestal, heaviness and weight 
to which the thighs adhere, 
with no promise of agility on 
that score. On the other - the 
torso, arms, neck, head, face, 
calves, feet: unbounded 
liveliness, rhythm and mask, 
which furiously attempt to 
compensate for the immu- 
tability of the central tree. We 
live on that border, crossroads 
beings, crucified beings. A 
woman is neither nomadic nor 
a male body that considers 
itself earthly only in erotic 
passion. A mother is a con- 
tinuous separation, a division 
of the very flesh. And conse- 
quently a division of language 
- and it has always been so. 

Then there is this other 
abyss that opens up between 
the body and what had been 
its inside: there is the abyss 
between the mother and the 
child. What connection is 
there between myself, or even 
more unassumingly between 
my body and this internal graft 
and fold, which, once the 
umbilical cord has been 
severed, is an inaccessible 
other? My body and. . .him. 
No connection. Nothing to do 

Vinci and deciphers there the 
ascendency of an archaic mother, 
seen therefore from the standpoint 
of her effects on man and par- 
ticularly on this strange function 
of his sometimes to change 
languages. Moreover, when Freud 
analyses the advent and trans- 
formations of monotheism, he 
emphasizes that Christianity comes 
closer to pagan myths by integrat- 
ing, through and against Judaic 
rigour, a pre-conscious acknow- 
ledgement of a maternal feminine. 
And yet, among the patients 
analysed by Freud, one seeks in 
vain for mothers and their prob- 
lems. One might be led to think 
that motherhood was a solution to 
neurosis and, by its very nature, 
ruled out psychoanalysis as a poss- 
ible other solution. Or might 
psychoanalysis, at this point, make 
way for religion? In simplified 
fashion, the only thing Freud tells 
us concerning motherhood is that 
the desire for a child is a trans- 
formation of either penis envy or 
anal drive, and this allows her to 
discover the neurotic equation 
child-penis-faeces. We are thus 
enlightened concerning an essen- 
tial aspect of male phantasmatics 
with respect to childbirth, and 
female phantasmatics as well to the 
extent that it embraces, in large 
part and in its hysterical laby- 
rinths, the male one. The fact re- 
mains, as far as the complexities 

Stabat Mater 


with it. And this, as early as 
the first gestures, cries, steps, 
long before its personality has 
become my opponent. The 
child, whether he or she is irre- 
mediably an other. To say that 
there are no sexual relation- 
ships constitutes a skimpy 
assertion when confronting the 
flash that bedazzles me when I 
confront the abyss between 
what was mine and is 
henceforth but irreparably 
alien. Trying to think through 
that abyss: staggering vertigo. 
No identity holds up. A 
mother's identity is maintained 
only through the well-known 
closure of consciousness 
within the indolence of habit, 
when a woman protects herself 
from the borderline that severs 
her body and expatriates it 
from her child. Lucidity, on 
the contrary, would restore her 
as cut in half, alien to its other 
- and a ground favourable to 
delirium. But also and for that 
very reason, motherhood 
destines us to a demented 
jouissance that is answered, by 
chance, by the nursling's 
laughter in the sunny waters of 
the ocean. What connection is 
there between it and myself? 
No connection, except for that 
overflowing laughter where one 
senses the collapse of some 
ringing, subtle, fluid identity or 

and pitfalls of maternal experience 
are involved, that Freud offers 
only a massive nothing, which, for 
those who might care to analyse it, 
is punctuated with this or that 
remark on the part of Freud's 
mother, proving to him in the 
kitchen that his own body is 
anything but immortal and will 
crumble away like dough; or the 
sour photograph of Marthe Freud, 
the wife, a whole mute story . . . 
There thus remained for his 
followers an entire continent to 
explore, a black one indeed, where 
Jung was the first to rush in, 
getting all his esoteric fingers 
burnt, but not without calling 
attention to some sore points of the 
imagination with regard to mother- 
hood, points that are still resisting 
analytical rationality. 4 

There might doubtless be a way 
to approach the dark area that 
motherhood constitutes for a 
woman; one needs to listen, more 
carefully than ever, to what 
mothers are saying today, through 
their economic difficulties and, 
beyond the guilt that a too existen- 
tialist feminism handed down, 
through their discomforts, insom- 
nias, joys, angers, desires, pains 
and pleasures . . . One might, in 
similar fashion, try better to 
understand the incredible con- 
struct of the Maternal that the 
West elaborated by means of the 
Virgin, and of which I have just 


Womeriy Psychoanalysis , Politics 

other, softly buoyed by the 

Concerning that stage of my 
childhood, scented, warm and 
soft to the touch, I have only 
a spatial memory. No time at 
all. Fragrance of honey, 
roundness of forms, silk and 
velvet under my fingers, on my 
cheeks. Mummy. Almost no 
sight - a shadow that darkens, 
soaks me up or vanishes amid 
flashes. Almost no voice in her 
placid presence. Except, 
perhaps, and more belatedly, 
the echo of quarrels: her ex- 
asperation, her being fed up, 
her hatred. Never straight- 
forward, always held back, as 
if, although the unmanageable 
child deserved it, the daughter 
could not accept the mother's 
hatred - it was not meant for 
her. A hatred without recipient 
or rather whose recipient was 
no T and which, perturbed by 
such a lack of recipience, was 
toned down into irony or 
collapsed into remorse before 
reaching its destination. With 
others, this maternal aversion 
may be worked up to a spasm 
that is held like a delayed 
orgasm. Women doubtless 
reproduce among themselves 
the strange gamut of forgotten 
body relationships with their 
mothers. Complicity in the 

mentioned a few episodes in a 
never-ending history. 

What is it then in this maternal 
representation that, alone of her 
sex, goes against both of the two 
sexes, 5 and was able to attract 
women's wishes for identification 
as well as the very precise inter- 
position of those who assumed to 
keep watch over the symbolic and 
social order? 

Let me suggest, by way of hypo- 
thesis, that the virginal maternal is 
a way (not among the less effective 
ones) of dealing with feminine 

- The Virgin assumes her 
feminine denial of the other sex (of 
man) but overcomes him by setting 
up a third person: J do not 
conceive with you but with Him. 
The result is an immaculate con- 
ception (therefore with neither 
man nor sex), conception of a God 
with whose existence a woman has 
indeed something to do, on condi- 
tion that she acknowledge being 
subjected to it. 

- The Virgin assumes the 
paranoid lust for power by chang- 
ing a woman into a Queen in 
heaven and a Mother of the earthly 
institutions (of the Church). But 
she succeeds in stifling that 
megalomania by putting it on its 
knees before the child-god. 

- The Virgin obstructs the desire 
for murder or devoration by means 
of a strong oral cathexis (the 

Stabat Mater 


unspoken, connivance of the 
inexpressible, of a wink, a tone 
of voice, a gesture, a tinge, a 
scent. We are in it, set free of 
our identification papers and 
names, on an ocean of precise- 
ness, a computerization of the 
unnameable. No communica- 
tion between individuals but 
connections between atoms, 
molecules, wisps of words, 
droplets of sentences. The 
community of women is a 
community of dolphins. Con- 
versely, when the other woman 
posits herself as such, that is, 
as singular and inevitably in 
opposition, 'I' am startled, so 
much that T no longer know 
what is going on. There are 
then two paths left open to the 
rejection that bespeaks the 
recognition of the other 
woman as such. Either, not 
wanting to experience her, I 
ignore her and, 'alone of my 
sex', I turn my back on her in 
friendly fashion. It is a hatred 
that, lacking a recipient worthy 
enough of its power, changes 
to unconcerned complacency. 
Or else, outraged by her own 
stubbornness, by that other's 
belief that she is singular, I 
unrelentingly let go at her 
claim to address me and find 
respite only in the eternal 
return of power strokes, bursts 
of hatred - blind and dull but 

breast), valorization of pain (the 
sob) and incitement to replace the 
sexed body with the ear of under- 

- The Virgin assumes the 
paranoid fantasy of being excluded 
from time and death through the 
very flattering representation of 
Dormition or Assumption. 

- The Virgin especially agrees 
with the repudiation of the other 
woman (which doubtless amounts 
basically to a repudiation of the 
woman's mother) by suggesting 
the image of A Unique Woman: 
alone among women, alone among 
mothers, alone among humans 
since she is without sin. But the 
acknowledgement of a longing for 
uniqueness is immediately checked 
by the postulate according to 
which uniqueness is attained only 
through an exacerbated maso- 
chism: a concrete woman, worthy 
of the feminine ideal embodied by 
the Virgin as an inaccessible goal, 
could only be a nun, a martyr or, 
if she is married, one who leads a 
life that would remove her from 
the * earthly' condition and dedi- 
cate her to the highest sublimation 
alien to her body. A bonus, how- 
ever: the promised jouissance. 

A skilful balance of concessions 
and constraints involving feminine 
paranoia, the representation of 
virgin motherhood appears to 
crown the efforts of a society to 
reconcile the social remnants of 


Women, Psychoanalysis , Politics 

obstinate. I do not see her 
as herself but beyond her I 
aim at the claim to singularity, 
the unacceptable ambition to 
be something other than a 
child or a fold in the plasma 
that constitutes us, an echo of 
the cosmos that unifies us. 
What an inconceivable ambi- 
tion it is to aspire to 
singularity, it is not natural, 
hence it is inhuman; the mania 
smitten with Oneness ('There 
is only One woman') can only 
impugn it by condemning it as 
'masculine' . . .Within this 
strange feminine see-saw that 
makes 'me' swing from the un- 
nameable community of 
women over to the war of 
individual singularities, it is 
unsettling to say T. The 
languages of the great formerly 
matriarchal civilizations must 
avoid, do avoid, personal 
pronouns: they leave to the 
context the burden of 
distinguishing protagonists and 
take refuge in tones to recover 
an underwater, trans-verbal 
communication between 
bodies. It is a music from 
which so-called oriental civility 
tears away suddenly through 
violence, murder, blood baths. 
A woman's discourse, would 
that be it? Did not Christianity 
attempt, among other things, 
to freeze that see-saw? To 

matrilinearism and the uncon- 
scious needs of primary narcissism 
on the one hand, and on the other 
the requirements of a new society 
based on exchange and before long 
on increased production, which 
require the contribution of the 
superego and rely on the symbolic 
paternal agency. 

While that clever balanced archi- 
tecture today appears to be 
crumbling, one is led to ask the 
following: what are the aspects of 
the feminine psyche for which that 
representation of motherhood does 
not provide a solution or else pro- 
vides one that is felt as too coercive 
by twentieth-century women? 

The unspoken doubtless weighs 
first on the maternal body: as 
no signifier can uplift it with- 
out leaving a remainder, for the 
signifier is always meaning, com- 
munication or structure, whereas 
a woman as mother would be, 
instead, a strange fold that changes 
culture into nature, the speaking 
into biology. Although it concerns 
every woman's body, the hetero- 
geneity that cannot be subsumed 
in the signifier nevertheless 
explodes violently with pregnancy 
(the threshold of culture and 
nature) and the child's arrival 
(which extracts woman out of her 
oneness and gives her the possi- 
bility - but not the certainty - of 
reaching out to the other, the 
ethical). Those particularities of 

Stabat Mater 183 

stop it, tear women away from the maternal body compose woman 
its rhythm, settle them perma- into a being of folds, a catastrophe 
nently in the spirit? Too of being that the dialectics of the 

permanently . . . trinity and its supplements would 

be unable to subsume. 
Silence weighs heavily none the 
less on the corporeal and psychological suffering of childbirth and 
especially the self-sacrifice involved in becoming anonymous in order 
to pass on the social norm, which one might repudiate for one's own 
sake but within which one must include the child in order to educate 
it along the chain of generations. A suffering lined with jubilation - 
ambivalence of masochism - on account of which a woman, rather refrac- 
tory to perversion, in fact allows herself a coded, fundamental, perverse 
behaviour, ultimate guarantee of society, without which society will not 
reproduce and will not maintain a constancy of standardized household. 
Feminine perversion does not reside in the parcelling or the Don Juan- 
like multiplying of objects of desire; it is at once legalized, if not rendered 
paranoid, through the agency of masochism: all sexual 'dissoluteness' 
will be accepted and hence become insignificant, provided a child seals 
up such outpours. Feminine perversion \p&re-version] is coiled up in 
the desire for law as desire for reproduction and continuity, it promotes 
feminine masochism to the rank of structure stabilizer (against its devia- 
tions); by assuring the mother that she may thus enter into an order 
that is above that of human will it gives her her reward of pleasure. Such 
coded perversion, such close combat between maternal masochism and 
the law have been utilized by totalitarian powers of all times to bring 
women to their side, and, of course, they succeed easily. And yet, it 
is not enough to 'declaim against' the reactionary role of mothers in 
the service of 'male dominating power'. One would need to examine 
to what extent that role corresponds to the bio-symbolic latencies of 
motherhood and, on that basis, to try to understand, since the myth 
of the Virgin does not subsume them, or no longer does, how their surge 
lays women open to the most fearsome manipulations, not to mention 
blinding, or pure and simple rejection by progressive activists who refuse 
to take a close look. 

Among things left out of the virginal myth there is the war between 
mother and daughter, a war masterfully but too quickly settled by 
promoting Mary as universal and particular, but never singular - as 
'alone of her sex'. The relation to the other woman has presented our 

184 Women, Psychoanalysis , Politics 

culture, in massive fashion during the past century, with the necessity 
to reformulate its representations of love and hatred - inherited from 
Plato's Symposium, the troubadours or Our Lady. On that level, too, 
motherhood opens out a vista: a woman seldom (although not neces- 
sarily) experiences her passion (love and hatred) for another woman 
without having taken her own mother's place - without having herself 
become a mother, and especially without slowly learning to differen- 
tiate between same beings - as being face to face with her daughter 
forces her to do. 

Finally, repudiation of the other sex (the masculine) no longer seems 
possible under the aegis of the third person, hypostatized in the child 
as go-between: 'neither me, nor you, but him, the child, the third 
person, the non-person, God, which I still am in the final analysis . . . ' 
Since there is repudiation, and if the feminine being that struggles within 
it is to remain there, it henceforth calls for, not the deification of the 
third party, but counter-cathexes in strong values, in strong equivalents 
of power. Ferriinine psychosis today is sustained and absorbed through 
passion for politics, science, art... The variant that accompanies 
motherhood might be analysed perhaps more readily than the others 

from the standpoint of the rejection 
of the other sex that it compromises. 
The love of God and for God To allow what? Surely not some 
resides in a gap: the broken understanding or other on the part 

space made explicit by sin on of 'sexual partners' within the 
the one side, the beyond on pre-established harmony of primal 

the other. Discontinuity, lack androgyny. Rather, to lead to an 
and arbitrariness: topography acknowledgement of what is irre- 
of the sign, of the symbolic ducible, of the irreconcilable 

relation that posits my interest of both sexes in asserting 

otherness as impossible. Love, their differences, in the quest of 
here, is only for the each one - and of women, after all 

impossible. - for an appropriate fulfilment. 

For a mother, on the other 
hand, strangely so, the other These, then, are a few questions 
as arbitrary (the child) is taken among others concerning a mother- 
for granted. As far as she is hood that today remains, after the 

concerned - impossible, that is Virgin, without a discourse. They 
just the way it is: it is reduced suggest, all in all, the need of an 
to the implacable. The other is ethics for this 'second' sex, which, 

Stabat Mater 


inevitable, she seems to say, 
turn it into a God if you wish, it 
is nevertheless natural, for such 
an other has come out of myself, 
which is yet not myself but a 
flow of unending germinations, 
an eternal cosmos. The other 
goes much without saying and 
without my saying that, at the 
limit, it does not exist for itself. 
The 'just the same' of motherly 
peace of mind, more persistent 
than philosophical doubt, 
gnaws, on account of its basic 
disbelief, at the symbolic 's 
allmightiness. It bypasses 
perverse negation ('I know, but 
just the same') and constitutes 
the basis of the social bond in 
its generality, in the sense of 
'resembling others and eventu- 
ally the species'. Such an atti- 
tude is frightening when one 
imagines that it can crush 
everything the other (the child) 
has that is specifically irredu- 
cible: rooted in that disposition 
of motherly love, besides, we 
find the leaden strap it can be- 
come, smothering any different 
individuality. But it is there, 
too, that the speaking being 
finds a refuge when his/her 
symbolic shell cracks and a 
crest emerges where speech 
causes biology to show through: 
I am thinking of the time of 
illness, of sexual-intellectual- 
physical passion, of death. . . 

as one asserts it, is reawakening. 
Nothing, however, suggests that 
a feminine ethics is possible, and 
Spinoza excluded women from his 
(along with children and the 
insane). Now, if a contemporary 
ethics is no longer seen as being the 
same as morality; if ethics amounts 
to not avoiding the embarrassing 
and inevitable problematics of the 
law but giving it flesh, language 
and jouissance - in that case its 
reformulation demands the con- 
tribution of women. Of women 
who harbour the desire to 
reproduce (to have stability). Of 
women who are available so that 
our speaking species, which knows 
it is moral, might withstand death. 
Of mothers. For an heretical ethics 
separated from morality, an 
herethics, is perhaps no more than 
that which in life makes bonds, 
thoughts, and therefore the 
thought of death, bearable: 
herethics is undeath [a-mort], 
love... ilia Mater, fons 
amoris ... So let us again listen to 
the Stabat Mater, and the music, 
all the music ... it swallows up the 
goddesses and removes their 

186 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 


1 Between the lines of this section one should be able to detect the presence of Marina 
Warner, Alone of All Her Sex. The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary (New York: 
Knopf, 1976) and Use Barande, Le Maternel singulier (Paris: Aubier-Montaigne, 1977), 
which underlay my reflections. 

2 Georges Dumezil, La Religion romaine archaique (Paris: Payot, 1974). 

3 [The French version quoted by Kristeva ('Woman, what is there in common between 
you and me?') is even stronger than the King James' translation, 'Woman, what 
have I to do with thee?' - trans.] 

4 Jung thus noted the 'hierogamous' relationship between Mary and Christ as well 
as the over-protection given the Virgin with respect to original sin, which places 
her on the margin of mankind; finally, he insisted very much on the Vatican's adop- 
tion of the Assumption as dogma, seeing it as one of the considerable merits of 
Catholicism as opposed to Protestantism (C. J. Jung, Answer to Job, Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 1969). 

5 As Caelius Sedulius wrote, 'She. . .had no peer/ Either in our first mother or in all 
women/ Who were to come. But alone of all her sex/ She pleased the Lord' ('Paschalis 
Carminis', Book II, 11. 68ff. of Opera Omnia, Vienna, 188S). Epigraph to Marina 
Warner, Alone of All Her Sex. 

Translated by Ledn S. Roudiez 

Women's Time 

First published as 'Le temps des femmes' in 33/44: Cahiers de recherche de 
sciences des textes et documents, 5 (Winter 1979), pp. 5-19, this essay was 
translated in Signs, 7, no.l (Autumn 1981), pp. 13-35, and reprinted in 
N. 0. Keohane, M. Z. Rosaldo and B. C. Gelpi (eds), Feminist Theory: a 
critique of ideology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982). From a feminist 
perspective, this is one of Kristeva's most important essays, not least because 
she here explicitly addresses the question of feminism and its relations to 
femininity on the one hand, and the symbolic order on the other. According 
to Kristeva, female subjectivity would seem to be linked both jro cyclical time 
(repetition) and To monumental) ximt (eternity), at least in so far-as both are 
ways of conceptualizing time from the perspective of motherhood and reproduc- 
tion. The time of history, hawever, can be characterized as linear time; time 
as project, teleology, departure, progression and arrival. This linear time is 
also that of language considered as the enunciation of a sequence of words. 

In 'Women's Time', Kristeva's explicit aim is to emphasize the multiplicity 
of female expressions and preoccupations so as not to homogenize 'woman', 
while at the same time insisting on the necessary recognition of sexual dif- 
ference as psychoanalysis sees it. Stressing that for her, the word 'generation ' 
emphasizes less a chronology than a signifying space, Kristeva distinguishes 
between two generations of feminists: the first wave of egalitarian feminists 
demanding equal rights with men or, in other words, their right to a place 
in linear time, and the second generation, emerging after 1968, which empha- 
sized women's radical difference from men and demanded women's right to 
remain outside the linear time of history and politics. After an examination 
of the role of socialism and Freudianism in relation to the demands of the 
women's movement, Kristeva focuses on the problems of the second position, 
perceived as a 'counter-ideology' which risks degenerating into an inverted 
form of sexism. 

A new generation of feminists is now emerging, however, a generation which 
will have to confront the task of reconciling maternal time (motherhood) with 
linear (political and historical) time. Unless we manage to theorize women's 

188 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

continued desire to have children, Kristeva argues, we leave the door wide 
open to religion and mysticism. The new generation, or more accurately, the 
corporeal and desiring mental space now available to women is one that 
advocates the parallel existence or the intermingling of all three approaches 
to feminism, all three concepts of time within the same historical moment. 
Presupposing as it does the deconstruction of the concept of 'identity', this 
demand opens up a space where individual difference is allowed free play. 
Anarchy will be avoided through the 'interiorization of the founding separation 
of the socio-symbolic contract' or, in other words, by the acceptance and 
integration of castration and sexual difference as the original, founding moment 
of civilization. 

Women's Time 

The nation - dream and reality of the nineteenth century - seems to 
have reached both its apogee and its limits when the 1929 crash and 
the National- Socialist apocalypse demolished the pillars that, according 
to Marx, were its essence: economic homogeneity, historical tradition 
and linguistic unity. It could indeed be demonstrated that the Second 
World War, though fought in the name of national values (in the above 
sense of the term), brought an end to the nation as a reality: it was turned 
into a mere illusion which, from that point forward, would be preserved 
only for ideological or strictly political purposes, its social and 
philosophical coherence having collapsed. To move quickly towards 
the specific problematic that will occupy us in this article, let us say 
that the chimera of economic homogeneity gave way to interdependence 
(when not submission to the economic superpowers), while historical 
tradition and linguistic unity were recast as a broader and deeper deter- 
minant: what might be called a symbolic denominator, defined as the 
cultural and religious memory forged by the interweaving of history 
and geography. The variants of this memory produce social territories 
which then redistribute the cutting up into political parties which is 
still in use but losing strength. At the same time, this memory or 
symbolic denominator, common to them all, reveals beyond economic 
globalization and/or uniformization certain characteristics transcending 
the nation that sometimes embrace an entire continent. A new social 
ensemble superior to the nation has thus been constituted, within 

Women's Time 189 

which the nation, far from losing its own traits, rediscovers and 
accentuates them in a strange temporality, in a kind of 'future perfect', 
where the most deeply repressed past gives a distinctive character to 
a logical and sociological distribution of the most modern type. For 
this memory or symbolic common denominator concerns the response 
that human groupings, united in space and time, have given not to the 
problems of the production of material goods (i.e., the domain of the 
economy and of the human relationships it implies, politics, etc.) but, 
rather, to those of reproduction, survival of the species, life and death, 
the body, sex and symbol. If it is true, for example, that Europe is 
representative of such a socio-cultural ensemble, it seems to me that 
its existence is based more on this 'symbolic denomination', which its 
art, philosophy and religions manifest, than on its economic profile, 
which is certainly interwoven with collective memory but whose traits 
change rather rapidly under pressure from its partners. 

It is clear that a social ensemble thus constituted possesses both a 
solidity rooted in a particular mode of reproduction and its represen- 
tations through which the biological species is connected to its humanity, 
which is a tributary of time: as well as a certain fragility as a result of 
the fact that, through its universality, the symbolic common denominator 
is necessarily echoed in the corresponding symbolic denominator of 
another socio-cultural ensemble. Thus, barely constituted as such, Europe 
finds itself being asked to compare itself with, or even to recognize 
itself in, the cultural, artistic, philosophical and religious constructions 
belonging to other supra-national socio-cultural ensembles. This seems 
natural when the entities involved were linked by history (e.g., Europe 
and North America, or Europe and Latin America), but the phenomenon 
also occurs when the universality of this denominator we have called sym- 
bolic juxtaposes modes of production and reproduction apparently opposed 
in both the past and the present (e.g. , Europe and India, or Europe and 
China). In short, with socio-cultural ensembles of the European type, we 
are constantly faced with a double problematic: that of their identity 
constituted by historical sedimentation, and that of their loss of identity 
which is produced by this connection of memories which escape from 
history only to encounter anthropology. In other words, we confront 
two temporal dimensions: the time of linear history, or cursive time (as 
Nietzsche called it), and the time of another history, thus another time, 
monumental time (again according to Nietzsche), which englobes these 
supra-national, socio-cultural ensembles within even larger entities. 

190 Womeriy Psychoanalysis, Politics 

I should like to draw attention to certain formations which seem to 
me to summarize the dynamics of a socio-cultural organism of this type. 
The question is one of socio-cultural groups, that is, groups defined 
according to their place in production, but especially according to 
their role in the mode of reproduction and its representations, which, 
while bearing the specific socio-cultural traits of the formation in 
question, are diagonal to it and connect it to other socio-cultural forma- 
tions. I am thinking in particular of socio-cultural groups which are 
usually defined as age groups (e.g., 'young people in Europe'), as 
sexual divisions (e.g., 'European women'), and so forth. While it is 
obvious that 'young people' or 'women' in Europe have their own 
particularity, it is none the less just as obvious that what defines them 
as 'young people' or as 'women' places them in a diagonal relationship 
to their European 'origin' and links them to similar categories in North 
America or in China, among others. That is, in so far as they also belong 
to 'monumental history', they will not be only European 'young people' 
or 'women' of Europe but will echo in a most specific way the universal 
traits of their structural place in reproduction and its representations. 

Consequently, the reader will find in the following pages, first, an 
attempt to situate the problematic of women in Europe within an inquiry 
on time: that time which the feminist movement both inherits and 
modifies. Secondly, I will attempt to distinguish two phases or two 
generations of women which, while immediately universalist and cosmo- 
politan in their demands, can none the less be differentiated by the fact 
that the first generation is more determined by the implications of a 
national problematic (in the sense suggested above), while the second, 
more determined by its place within the 'symbolic denominator', is 
European and trans-European. Finally, I will try, both through the 
problems approached and through the type of analysis I propose, to 
present what I consider a viable stance for a European - or at least a 
European woman - within a domain which is henceforth worldwide 
in scope. 

Which time? 

'Father's time, mother's species', as Joyce put it; and indeed, when 
evoking the name and destiny of women, one thinks more of the space 
generating and forming the human species than of time, becoming or 
history. The modern sciences of subjectivity, of its genealogy and 

Women's Time 191 

accidents, confirm in their own way this intuition, which is perhaps 
itself the result of a socio-historical conjuncture. Freud, listening to 
the dreams and fantasies of his patients, thought that 'hysteria was linked 
to place'. 1 Subsequent studies on the acquisition of the symbolic 
function by children show that the permanence and quality of maternal 
love condition the appearance of the first spatial references which 
induce the child's laugh and then induce the entire range of symbolic 
manifestations which lead eventually to sign and syntax. 2 Moreover, 
anti-psychiatry and psychoanalysis as applied to the treatment of 
psychoses, before attributing the capacity for transference and com- 
munication to the patient, proceed to the arrangement of new places, 
gratifying substitutes that repair old deficiencies in the maternal space. 
I could go on giving examples. But they all converge on the problematic 
of space, which innumerable religions of matriarchal (re)appearance 
attribute to 'woman', and which Plato, recapitulating in his own system 
the atomists of antiquity, designated by the aporia of the chora, matrix 
space, nourishing, unnameable, anterior to the One, to God and, 
consequently, defying metaphysics. 3 

As for time, female 4 subjectivity would seem to provide a specific 
measure that essentially retains repetition and eternity from among the 
multiple modalities of time known through the history of civilizations. 
On the one hand, there are cycles, gestation, the eternal recurrence of 
a biological rhythm which conforms to that of nature and imposes a 
temporality whose stereotyping may shock, but whose regularity and 
unison with what is experienced as extra-subjective time, cosmic time, 
occasion vertiginous visions and unnameable jouissance. 5 On the other 
hand, and perhaps as a consequence, there is the massive presence of 
a monumental temporality, without cleavage or escape, which has so 
little to do with linear time (which passes) that the very word tempor- 
ality' hardly fits: all-encompassing and infinite like imaginary space, 
this temporality reminds one of Kronos in Hesiod's mythology, the 
incestuous son whose massive presence covered all of Gea in order to 
separate her from Ouranos, the father. 6 Or one is reminded of the 
various myths of resurrection which, in all religious beliefs, perpetuate 
the vestige of an anterior or concomitant maternal cult, right up to its 
most recent elaboration, Christianity, in which the body of the Virgin 
Mother does not die but moves from one spatiality to another within 
the same time via dormition (according to the Orthodox faith) or via 
assumption (the Catholic faith). 7 

192 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

The fact that these two types of temporality (cyclical and monumental) 
are traditionally linked to female subjectivity in so far as the latter is 
thought of as necessarily maternal should not make us forget that this 
repetition and this eternity are found to be the fundamental, if not the 
sole, conceptions of time in numerous civilizations and experiences, 
particularly mystical ones. 8 The fact that certain currents of modern 
feminism recognize themselves here does not render them fundamentally 
incompatible with 'masculine' values. 

In return, female subjectivity as it gives itself up to intuition becomes 
a problem with respect to a certain conception of time: time as project, 
teleology, linear and prospective unfolding: time as departure, progres- 
sion and arrival - in other words, the time of history. It has already 
been abundantly demonstrated that this kind of temporality is inherent 
in the logical and ontological values of any given civilization, that this 
temporality renders explicit a rupture, an expectation or an anguish 
which other temporalities work to conceal. It might also be added that 
this linear time is that of language considered as the enunciation of 
sentences (noun + verb; topic-comment; beginning-ending), and that 
this time rests on its own stumbling block, which is also the stumbling 
block of that enunciation - death. A psychoanalyst would call this 
'obsessional time', recognizing in the mastery of time the true structure 
of the slave. The hysteric (either male or female) who suffers from 
reminiscences would, rather, recognize his or her self in the anterior 
temporal modalities: cyclical or monumental. This antimony, one 
perhaps embedded in psychic structures, becomes, none the less, within 
a given civilization, an antimony among social groups and ideologies 
in which the radical positions of certain feminists would rejoin the 
discourse of marginal groups of spiritual or mystical inspiration and, 
strangely enough, rejoin recent scientific preoccupations. Is it not true 
that the problematic of a time indissociable from space, of a space-time 
in infinite expansion, or rhythmed by accidents or catastrophes, pre- 
occupies both space science and genetics? And, at another level, is it 
not true that the contemporary media revolution, which is manifest in 
the storage and reproduction of information, implies an idea of time 
as frozen or exploding according to the vagaries of demand, returning 
to its source but uncontrollable, utterly bypassing its subject and leaving 
only two preoccupations to those who approve of it: Who is to have 
power over the origin (the programming) and over the end (the use)? 
It is for two precise reasons, within the framework of this article, 

Women's Time 193 

that I have allowed myself this rapid excursion into a problematic of 
unheard-of complexity. The reader will undoubtedly have been struck 
by a fluctuation in the term of reference: mother, woman, hysteric ... I 
think that the apparent coherence which the term 'woman' assumes 
in contemporary ideology, apart from its 'mass' or 'shock' effect for 
activist purposes, essentially has the negative effect of effacing the 
differences among the diverse functions or structures which operate 
beneath this word. Indeed, the time has perhaps come to emphasize 
the multiplicity of female expressions and preoccupations so that from 
the intersection of these differences there might arise, more precisely, 
less commercially and more truthfully, the real fundamental difference 
between the two sexes: a difference that feminism has had the enormous 
merit of rendering painful, that is, productive of surprises and of 
symbolic life in a civilization which, outside the stock exchange and 
wars, is bored to death. 

It is obvious, moreover, that one cannot speak of Europe or of 
'women in Europe' without suggesting the time in which this socio- 
cultural distribution is situated. If it is true that a female sensibility 
emerged a century ago, the chances are great that by introducing its 
own notion of time, this sensibilty is not in agreement with the idea 
of an 'eternal Europe' and perhaps not even with that of a 'modern 
Europe'. Rather, through and with the European past and present, as 
through and with the ensemble of 'Europe', which is the repository 
of memory, this sensibility seeks its own trans-European temporality. 
There are, in any case, three attitudes on the part of European feminist 
movements towards this conception of linear temporality, which is 
readily labelled masculine and which is at once both civilizational and 

Two generations 

In its beginnings, the women's movement, as the struggle of suffragists 
and of existential feminists, aspired to gain a place in linear time as 
the time of project and history. In this sense, the movement, while 
immediately universalist, is also deeply rooted in the socio-political life 
of nations. The political demands of women; the struggles for equal 
pay for equal work, for taking power in social institutions on an equal 
footing with men; the rejection, when necessary, of the attributes tradi- 
tionally considered feminine or maternal in so far as they are deemed 

194 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

incompatible with insertion in that history - all are part of the logic 
of identification 9 with certain values: not with the ideological (these are 
combated, and rightly so, as reactionary) but, rather, with the logical 
and ontological values of a rationality dominant in the nation-state. Here 
it is unnecessary to enumerate the benefits which this logic of iden- 
tification and the ensuing struggle have achieved and continue to achieve 
for women (abortion, contraception, equal pay, professional recognition, 
etc.); these have already had or will soon have effects even more 
important than those of the Industrial Revolution. Universalist in its 
approach, this current in feminism globalizes the problems of women 
of different milieux, ages, civilizations or simply of varying psychic 
structures, under the label 'Universal Woman'. A consideration of 
generations of women can only be conceived of in this global way as a 
succession, as a progression in the accomplishment of the initial 
programme mapped out by its founders. 

In a second phase, linked, on the one hand, to the younger women 
who came to feminism after May 1968 and, on the other, to women 
who had an aesthetic or psychoanalytic experience, linear temporality 
has been almost totally refused, and as a consequence there has arisen 
an exacerbated distrust of the entire political dimension. If it is true 
that this more recent current of feminism refers to its predecessors and 
that the struggle for socio-cultural recognition of women is necessarily 
its main concern, this current seems to think of itself as belonging to 
another generation - qualitatively different from the first one - in its 
conception of its own identity and, consequently, of temporality as such. 
Essentially interested in the specificity of female psychology and its 
symbolic realizations, these women seek to give a language to the intra- 
subjective and corporeal experiences left mute by culture in the past. 
Either as artists or writers, they have undertaken a veritable exploration 
of the dynamic of signs, an exploration which relates this tendency, at 
least at the level of its aspirations, to all major projects of aesthetic and 
religious upheaval. Ascribing this experience to a new generation does 
not only mean that other, more subtle problems have been added 
to the demands for socio-political identification made in the beginning. 
It also means that, by demanding recognition of an irreducible identity, 
without equal in the opposite sex and, as such, exploded, plural, fluid, 
in a certain way non-identical, this feminism situates itself outside the 
linear time of identities which communicate through projection and 
revindication. Such a feminism rejoins, on the one hand, the archaic 

Women's Time 195 

(mythical) memory and, on the other, the cyclical or monumental 
temporality of marginal movements. It is certainly not by chance that 
the European and trans-European problematic has been poised as such 
at the same time as this new phase of feminism. 

Finally, it is the mixture of the two attitudes - insertion into history 
and the radical refusal of the subjective limitations imposed by this 
history's time on an experiment carried out in the name of the irredu- 
cible difference - that seems to have broken loose over the past few 
years in European feminist movements, particularly in France and in 

If we accept this meaning of the expression 'a new generation of 
women', two kinds of questions might then be posed. What socio- 
political processes or events have provoked this mutation? What are 
its problems: its contributions as well as dangers? 

Socialism and Freudianism 

One could hypothesize that if this new generation of women shows itself 
to be more diffuse and perhaps less conscious in the United States and 
more massive in Western Europe, this is because of a veritable split 
in social relations and mentalities, a split produced by socialism and 
Freudianism. I mean by socialism that egalitarian doctrine which is 
increasingly broadly disseminated and accepted as based on common 
sense, as well as that social practice adopted by governments and political 
parties in democratic regimes which are forced to extend the zone of 
egalitarianism to include the distribution of goods as well as access to 
culture. By Freudianism I mean that lever, inside this egalitarian and 
socializing field, which once again poses the question of sexual difference 
and of the difference among subjects who themselves are not reducible 
one to the other. 

Western socialism, shaken in its very beginnings by the egalitarian 
or differential demands of its women (e.g., Flora Tristan), quickly got 
rid of those women who aspired to recognition of a specificity of the 
female role in society and culture, only retaining from them, in the 
egalitarian and universalistic spirit of Enlightenment Humanism, the 
idea of a necessary identification between the two sexes as the only and 
unique means for liberating the 'second sex'. I shall not develop here 
the fact that this 'ideal' is far from being applied in practice by these 
socialist-inspired movements and parties and that it was in pan from 

196 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

the revolt against this situation that the new generation of women in 
Western Europe was born after May 1968. Let us just say that in theory, 
and as put into practice in Eastern Europe, socialist ideology, based 
on a conception of the human being as determined by its place in 
production and the relations of production, did not take into consideration 
this same human being according to its place in reproduction, on the 
one hand, or in the symbolic order, on the other. Consequently, the 
specific character of women could only appear as non-essential or even 
non-existent to the totalizing and even totalitarian spirit of this 
ideology. 10 We begin to see that this same egalitarian and in fact 
censuring treatment has been imposed, from Enlightenment Humanism 
through socialism, on religious specificities and, in particular, on 
Jews. 11 

What has been achieved by this attitude remains none the less of capital 
importance for women, and I shall take as an example the change in 
the destiny of women in the socialist countries of Eastern Europe. It 
could be said, with only slight exaggeration, that the demands of the 
suffragists and existential feminists have, to a great extent, been met 
in these countries, since three of the main egalitarian demands of early 
feminism have been or are now being implemented despite vagaries and 
blunders: economic, political and professional equality. The fourth, 
sexual equality, which implies permissiveness in sexual relations 
(including homosexual relations), abortions and contraception, remains 
stricken by taboo in Marxian ethics as well as for reasons of state. It 
is, then, this fourth equality which is the problem and which therefore 
appears essential in the struggle of a new generation. But simultaneously 
and as a consequence of these socialist accomplishments - which are 
in fact a total deception - the struggle is no longer concerned with the 
quest for equality but, rather, with difference and specificity. It is 
precisely at this point that the new generation encounters what might 
be called the symbolic question. 12 Sexual difference - which is at once 
biological, physiological and relative to reproduction - is translated by 
and translates a difference in the relationship of subjects to the symbolic 
contract which is the social contract: a difference, then, in the relationship 
to power, language and meaning. The sharpest and most subtle point 
of feminist subversion brought about by the new generation will hence- 
forth be situated on the terrain of the inseparable conjunction of the 
sexual and the symbolic, in order to try to discover, first, the specificity 
of the female, and then, in the end, that of each individual woman. 

Women's Time 197 

A certain saturation of socialist ideology, a certain exhaustion of its 
potential as a programme for a new social contract (it is obvious that 
the effective realization of this programme is far from being accom- 
plished, and I am here treating only its system of thought) makes way 
for . . . Freudianism. I am, of course, aware that this term and this 
practice are somewhat shocking to the American intellectual con- 
sciousness (which rightly reacts to a muddled and normalizing form 
of psychoanalysis) and, above all, to the feminist consciousness. To 
restrict my remarks to the latter: Is it not true that Freud has been 
seen only as a denigrator or even an exploiter of women? as an irritating 
phallocrat in a Vienna which was at once puritan and decadent - a man 
who fantasized women as sub-men, castrated men? 

Castrated and/or subject to language 

Before going beyond Freud to propose a more just or more modern 
vision of women, let us try, first, to understand his notion of castration. 
It is, first of all, a question of an anguish or fear of castration, or of 
correlative penis envy; a question, therefore, of imaginary formations 
readily perceivable in the discourse of neurotics of both sexes, men and 
women. But, above all, a careful reading of Freud, going beyond his 
biologism and his mechanism, both characteristic of his time, brings 
out two things. First, as presupposition for the "primal scene', the 
castration fantasy and its correlative (penis envy) are hypotheses, a priori 
suppositions intrinsic to the theory itself, in the sense that these are 
not the ideological fantasies of their inventor but, rather, logical 
necessities to be placed at the 'origin' in order to explain what unceas- 
ingly functions in neurotic discourse. In other words, neurotic discourse, 
in man and woman, can only be understood in terms of its own logic 
when its fundamental causes are admitted as the fantasies of the primal 
scene and castration, even if (as may be the case) nothing renders them 
present in reality itself. Stated in still other terms, the reality of castra- 
tion is no more real than the hypothesis of an explosion which, according 
to modern astrophysics, is at the origin of the universe: nothing proves 
it, in a sense it is an article of faith, the only difference being that 
numerous phenomena of life in this 'big-bang' universe are explicable 
only through this initial hypothesis. But one is infinitely more jolted 
when this kind of intellectual method concerns inanimate matter than 

198 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

when it is applied to our own subjectivity and thus, perhaps, to the 
fundamental mechanism of our epistemophilic thought. 

Moreover, certain texts written by Freud (The Interpretation of Dreams, 
but especially those of the second topology, in particular the Meta- 
psychology) and their recent extensions (notably by Lacan), 13 imply 
that castration is, in sum, the imaginary construction of a radical opera- 
tion which constitutes the symbolic field and all beings inscribed therein. 
This operation constitutes signs and syntax; that is, language, as a 
separation from a presumed state of nature, of pleasure fused with nature 
so that the introduction of an articulated network of differences, which 
refers to objects henceforth and only in this way separated from a subject, 
may constitute meaning. This logical operation of separation (confirmed 
by all psycho-linguistic and child psychology) which preconditions the 
binding of language which is already syntactical, is therefore the common 
destiny of the two sexes, men and women. That certain biofamilial 
conditions and relationships cause women (and notably hysterics) to 
deny this separation and the language which ensues from it, whereas 
men (notably obsessionals) magnify both and, terrified, attempt to 
master them - this is what Freud's discovery has to tell us on this 

The analytic situation indeed shows that it is the penis which, 
becoming the major referent in this operation of separation, gives full 
meaning to the lack or to the desire which constitutes the subject during 
his or her insertion into the order of language. I should only like to 
indicate here that, in order for this operation constitutive of the symbolic 
and the social to appear in its full truth and for it to be understood 
by both sexes, it would be just to emphasize its extension to all that 
is privation of fulfilment and of totality; exclusion of a pleasing, natural 
and sound state: in short, the break indispensable to the advent of the 

It can now be seen how women, starting with this theoretical 
apparatus, might try to understand their sexual and symbolic difference 
in the framework of social, cultural and professional realization, in order 
to try, by seeing their position therein, either to fulfil their own 
experience to a maximum or - but always starting from this point - 
to go further and call into question the very apparatus itself. 

Women's Time 199 

Living the sacrifice 

In any case, and for women in Europe today, whether or not they are 
conscious of the various mutations (socialist and Freudian) which have 
produced or simply accompanied their coming into their own, the urgent 
question on our agenda might be formulated as follows: What can be our 
place in the symbolic contract? If the social contract, far from being that of 
equal men, is based on an essentially sacrificial relationship of separation 
and articulation of differences which in this way produces communicable 
meaning, what is our place in this order of sacrifice and/or of language? 
No longer wishing to be excluded or no longer content with the function 
which has always been demanded of us (to maintain, arrange and 
perpetuate this socio-symbolic contract as mothers, wives, nurses, 
doctors, teachers . . . ), how can we reveal our place, first as it is bequeathed 
to us by tradition, and then as we want to transform it? 

It is difficult to evaluate what in the relationship of women to the 
symbolic as it reveals itself now arises from a socio-historical conjuncture 
(patriarchal ideology, whether Christian, humanist, socialist or so forth), 
and what arises from a structure. We can speak only about a structure 
observed in a socio-historical context, which is that of Christian, Western 
civilization and its lay ramifications. In this sense of psycho-symbolic 
structure, women, 'we' (is it necessary to recall the warnings we issued 
at the beginning of this article concerning the totalizing use of this plural?) 
seem to feel that they are the casualties, that they have been left out of 
the socio-symbolic contract, of language as the fundamental social bond. 
They find no affect there, no more than they find the fluid and infinitesi- 
mal significations of their relationships with the nature of their own bodies, 
that of the child, another woman or a man. This frustration, which to a 
certain extent belongs to men also, is being voiced today principally by 
women, to the point of becoming the essence of the new feminist ideology. 
A therefore difficult, if not impossible, identification with the sacrificial 
logic of separation and syntactical sequence at the foundation of language 
and the social code leads to the rejection of the symbolic - lived as the 
rejection of the paternal function and ultimately generating psychoses. 
But this limit, rarely reached as such, produces two types of counter- 
investment of what we have termed the socio-symbolic contract. On the 
one hand, there are attempts to take hold of this contract, to possess it 
in order to enjoy it as such or to subvert it. How? The answer remains 

200 Women, Psychoanalysis , Politics 

difficult to formulate (since, precisely, any formulation is deemed 
frustrating, mutilating, sacrificial) or else is in fact formulated using 
stereotypes taken from extremist and often deadly ideologies. On the 
other hand, another attitude is more lucid from the beginning, more 
self-analytical which - without refusing or sidestepping this socio- 
symbolic order - consists in trying to explore the constitution and 
functioning of this contract, starting less from the knowledge accumu- 
lated about it (anthropology, psychoanalysis, linguistics) than from the 
very personal affect experienced when facing it as subject and as a 
woman. This leads to the active research, 14 still rare, undoubtedly 
hesitant but always dissident, being carried out by women in the human 
sciences; particularly those attempts, in the wake of contemporary art, 
to break the code, to shatter language, to find a specific discourse closer 
to the body and emotions, to the unnameable repressed by the social 
contract. I am not speaking here of a 'woman's language', whose (at 
least syntactical) existence is highly problematical and whose apparent 
lexical specificity is perhaps more the product of a social marginality 
than of a sexual-symbolic difference. 15 

Nor am I speaking of the aesthetic quality of productions by women, 
most of which - with a few exceptions (but has this not always been 
the case with both sexes?) - are a reiteration of a more or less euphoric 
or depressed romanticism and always an explosion of an ego lacking 
narcissistic gratification. 16 What I should like to retain, none the less, 
as a mark of collective aspiration, as an undoubtedly vague and un- 
implemented intention, but one which is intense and which has been 
deeply revealing these past few years, is this: The new generation of 
women is showing that its major social concern has become the socio- 
symbolic contract as a sacrificial contract. If anthropologists and 
psychologists, for at least a century, have not stopped insisting on this 
in their attention to 'savage thought', wars, the discourse of dreams 
or writers, women are today affirming - and we consequently face a 
mass phenomenon - that they are forced to experience this sacrificial 
contract against their will. 17 Based on this, they are attempting a revolt 
which they see as a resurrection but which society as a whole understands 
as murder. This attempt can lead us to a not less and sometimes more 
deadly violence. Or to a cultural innovation. Probably to both at once. 
But that is precisely where the stakes are, and they are of epochal 

Women's Time 201 

The terror of power or the power of terrorism 

First in socialist countries (such as the USSR and China) and increas- 
ingly in Western democracies, under pressure from feminist movements, 
women are being promoted to leadership positions in government, 
industry and culture. Inequalities, devalorizations, underestimations, 
even persecution of women at this level continue to hold sway in vain. 
The struggle against them is a struggle against archaisms. The cause 
has none the less been understood, the principle has been accepted. 18 
What remains is to break down the resistance to change. In this sense, 
this struggle, while still one of the main concerns of the new genera- 
tion, is not, strictly speaking, its problem. In relationship to power, its 
problem might rather be summarized as follows: What happens when, 
on the contrary, they refuse power and create a parallel society, a 
counter-power which then takes on aspects ranging from a club of ideas 
to a group of terrorist commandos? 

The assumption by women of executive, industrial and cultural power 
has not, up to the present time, radically changed the nature of this 
power. This can be clearly seen in the East, where women promoted 
to decision-making positions suddenly obtain the economic as well as 
the narcissistic advantages refused them for thousands of years and 
become the pillars of the existing governments, guardians of the status 
quo, the most zealous protectors of the established order. 19 This iden- 
tification by women with the very power structures previously considered 
as frustrating, oppressive or inaccessible has often been used in modern 
times by totalitarian regimes: the German National Socialists and the 
Chilean junta are examples of this. 20 The fact that this is a paranoid 
type of counter-investment in an initially denied symbolic order can 
perhaps explain this troubling phenomenon; but an explanation does 
not prevent its massive propagation around the globe, perhaps in less 
dramatic forms than the totalitarian ones mentioned above, but all 
moving towards levelling, stabilization, conformism, at the cost of 
crushing exceptions, experiments, chance occurrences. 

Some will regret that the rise of a libertarian movement such as 
feminism ends, in some of its aspects, in the consolidation of conform- 
ism; others will rejoice and profit from this fact. Electoral campaigns, 
the very life of political parties, continue to bet on this latter tendency. 
Experience proves that too quickly even the protest or innovative 

202 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

initiatives on the part of women inhaled by power systems (when they 
do not submit to them right away) are soon credited to the system's 
account; and that the long-awaited democratization of institutions as 
a result of the entry of women most often comes down to fabricating 
a few 'chiefs' among them. The difficulty presented by this logic of 
integrating the second sex into a value-system experienced as foreign 
and therefore counter-invested is how to avoid the centralization of 
power, how to detach women from it and how then to proceed, through 
their critical, differential and autonomous interventions, to render 
decision-making institutions more flexible. 

Then there are the more radical feminist currents which, refusing 
homologation to any role of identification with existing power no matter 
what the power may be, make of the second sex a counter-society. A 
'female society' is then constituted as a sort of alter ego of the official 
society, in which all real or fantasized possibilities for jouissance take 
refuge. Against the socio-symbolic contract, both sacrificial and 
frustrating, this counter-society is imagined as harmonious, without pro- 
hibitions, free and fulfilling. In our modern societies which have no 
hereafter or, at least, which are caught up in a transcendency either 
reduced to this side of the world (protestantism) or crumbling (Catholi- 
cism and its current challenges), the counter-society remains the only 
refuge for fulfilment since it is precisely an a-topia, a place outside the 
law, Utopia's floodgate. 

As with any society, the counter-society is based on the expulsion 
of an excluded element, a scapegoat charged with the evil of which the 
community duly constituted can then purge itself; 21 a purge which will 
finally exonerate that community of any future criticism. Modern protest 
movements have often reiterated this logic, locating the guilty one - 
in order to fend off criticism - in the foreign, in capital alone, in the 
other religion, in the other sex. Does not feminism become a kind of 
inverted sexism when this logic is followed to its conclusion? The various 
forms of marginalism - according to sex, age, religion or ideology - 
represent in the modern world this refuge for jouissance, a sort of laicized 
transcendence. But with women, and in so far as the number of those 
feeling concerned by this problem has increased, although in less 
spectacular forms than a few years ago, the problem of the counter- 
society is becoming massive: It occupies no more and no less than 'half 
of the sky'. 

It has, therefore, become clear, because of the particular radicalization 

Women's Time 203 

of the second generation, that these protest movements, including 
feminism, are not 'initially libertarian' movements which only later, 
through internal deviations or external chance manipulations, fall back 
into the old ruts of the initially combated archetypes. Rather, the very 
logic of counter-power and of counter-society necessarily generates, by 
its very structure, its essence as a simulacrum of the combated society 
or of power. In this sense and from a viewpoint undoubtedly too 
Hegelian, modern feminism has only been but a moment in the intermin- 
able process of coming to consciousness about the implacable violence 
(separation, castration, etc.) which constitutes any symbolic contract. 

Thus the identification with power in order to consolidate it or the 
constitution of a fetishist counter-power - restorer of the crises of the 
self and provider of a jouissance which is always already a transgression 
- seem to be the two social forms which the face-off between the new 
generation of women and the social contract can take. That one also 
finds the problem of terrorism there is structurally related. 

The large number of women in terrorist groups (Palestinian comman- 
dos, the Baader-Meinhoff Gang, Red Brigades, etc.) has already been 
pointed out, either violently or prudently according to the source of 
information. The exploitation of women is still too great and the tradi- 
tional prejudices against them too violent for one to be able to envision 
this phenomenon with sufficient distance. It can, however, be said from 
now on that this is the inevitable product of what we have called a denial 
of the socio-symbolic contract and its counter-investment as the only 
means of self-defence in the struggle to safeguard an identity. This 
paranoid-type mechanism is at the base of any political involvement. 
It may produce different civilizing attitudes in the sense that these 
attitudes allow a more or less flexible reabsorption of violence and death. 
But when a subject is too brutally excluded from this socio-symbolic 
stratum; when, for example, a woman feels her affective life as a woman 
or her condition as a social being too brutally ignored by existing 
discourse or power (from her family to social institutions); she may, 
by counter-investing the violence she has endured, make of herself a 
'possessed' agent of this violence in order to combat what was experi- 
enced as frustration - with arms which may seem disproportional, but 
which are not so in comparison with the subjective or more precisely 
narcissistic suffering from which they originate. Necessarily opposed 
to the bourgeois democratic regimes in power, this terrorist violence 
offers as a progamme of liberation an order which is even more 

204 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

oppressive, more sacrificial than those it combats. Strangely enough, 
it is not against totalitarian regimes that these terrorist groups with 
women participants unleash themselves but, rather, against liberal 
systems, whose essence is, of course, exploitative, but whose expanding 
democratic legality guarantees relative tolerance. Each time, the 
mobilization takes place in the name of a nation, of an oppressed group, 
of a human essence imagined as good and sound; in the name, then, 
of a kind of fantasy of archaic fulfilment which an arbitrary, abstract 
and thus even bad and ultimately discriminatory order has come to 
disrupt. While that order is accused of being oppressive, is it not actually 
being reproached with being too weak, with not measuring up to this 
pure and good, but henceforth lost, substance? Anthropology has shown 
that the social order is sacrificial, but sacrifice orders violence, binds 
it, tames it. Refusal of the social order exposes one to the risk that the 
so-called good substance, once it is unchained, will explode, without 
curbs, without law or right, to become an absolute arbitrariness. 

Following the crisis of monotheism, the revolutions of the past two 
centuries, and more recently Fascism and Stalinism, have tragically set 
in action this logic of the oppressed goodwill which leads to massacres. 
Are women more apt than other social categories, notably the exploited 
classes, to invest in this implacable machine of terrorism? No categorical 
response, either positive or negative, can currently be given to this 
question. It must be pointed out, however, that since the dawn of 
feminism, and certainly before, the political activity of exceptional 
women, and thus in a certain sense of liberated women, has taken the 
form of murder, conspiracy and crime. Finally, there is also the conni- 
vance of the young girl with her mother, her greater difficulty than the 
boy in detaching herself from the mother in order to accede to the order 
of signs as invested by the absence and separation constitutive of the 
paternal function. A girl will never be able to re-establish this contact 
with her mother - a contact which the boy may possibly rediscover 
through his relationship with the opposite sex - except by becoming 
a mother herself, through a child or through a homosexuality which 
is in itself extremely difficult and judged as suspect by society; and, 
what is more, why and in the name of what dubious symbolic benefit 
would she want to make this detachment so as to conform to a symbolic 
system which remains foreign to her? In sum, all of these considera- 
tions - her eternal debt to the woman-mother - make a woman more 
vulnerable within the symbolic order, more fragile when she suffers 

Women's Time 205 

within it, more virulent when she protects herself from it. If the 
archetype of the belief in a good and pure substance, that of Utopias, 
is the belief in the omnipotence of an archaic, full, total englobing mother 
with no frustration, no separation, with no break-producing symbolism 
(with no castration, in other words), then it becomes evident that we 
will never be able to defuse the violences mobilized through the counter- 
investment necessary to carrying out this phantasm, unless one 
challenges precisely this myth of the archaic mother. It is in this way 
that we can understand the warnings against the recent invasion of the 
women's movements by paranoia, 22 as in Lacan's scandalous sentence 
'There is no such thing as Woman'. 23 Indeed, she does not exist with 
a capital 'W, possessor of some mythical unity - a supreme power, 
on which is based the terror of power and terrorism as the desire for 
power. But what an unbelievable force for subversion in the modern 
world! And, at the same time, what playing with fire! 

Creatures and creatresses 

The desire to be a mother, considered alienating and even reactionary 
by the preceding generation of feminists, has obviously not become a 
standard for the present generation. But we have seen in the past few 
years an increasing number of women who not only consider their 
maternity compatible with their professional life or their feminist 
involvement (certain improvements in the quality of life are also at the 
origin of this: an increase in the number of daycare centres and nursery 
schools, more active participation of men in child care and domestic 
life, etc.), but also find it indispensable to their discovery, not of the 
plenitude, but of the complexity of the female experience, with all that 
this complexity comprises in joy and pain. This tendency has its extreme: 
in the refusal of the paternal function by lesbian and single mothers 
can be seen one of the most violent forms taken by the rejection of the 
symbolic outlined above, as well as one of the most fervent diviniza- 
tions of maternal power - all of which cannot help but trouble an entire 
legal and moral order without, however, proposing an alternative to 
it. Let us remember here that Hegel distinguished between female right 
(familial and religious) and male law (civil and political). If our societies 
know well the uses and abuses of male law, it must also be recognized 
that female right is designated, for the moment, by a blank. And if 
these practices of maternity, among others, were to be generalized, 

206 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

women themselves would be responsible for elaborating the appropriate 
legislation to check the violence to which, otherwise, both their children 
and men would be subject. But are they capable of doing so? This is 
one of the important questions that the new generation of women 
encounters, especially when the members of this new generation refuse 
to ask those questions seized by the same rage with which the dominant 
order originally victimized them. 

Faced with this situation, it seems obvious - and feminist groups 
become more aware of this when they attempt to broaden their audience 
- that the refusal of maternity cannot be a mass policy and that the 
majority of women today see the possibility for fulfilment, if not entirely 
at least to a large degree, in bringing a child into the world. What does 
this desire for motherhood correspond to? This is one of the new 
questions for the new generation, a question the preceding generation 
had foreclosed. For want of an answer to this question, feminist ideology 
leaves the door open to the return of religion, whose discourse, tried 
and proved over thousands of years, provides the necessary ingredients 
for satisfying the anguish, the suffering and the hopes of mothers. If 
Freud's affirmation - that the desire for a child is the desire for a penis 
and, in this sense, a substitute for phallic and symbolic dominion - 
can be only partially accepted, what modern women have to say about 
this experience should none the less be listened to attentively. Pregnancy 
seems to be experienced as the radical ordeal of the splitting of the 
subject: 24 redoubling up of the body, separation and coexistence of the 
self and of an other, of nature and consciousness, of physiology and 
speech. This fundamental challenge to identity is then accompanied 
by a fantasy of totality - narcissistic completeness - a sort of instituted, 
socialized, natural psychosis. The arrival of the child, on the other hand, 
leads the mother into the labyrinths of an experience that, without the 
child, she would only rarely encounter: love for an other. Not for herself, 
nor for an identical being, and still less for another person with whom 
T fuse (love or sexual passion). But the slow, difficult and delightful 
apprenticeship in attentiveness, gentleness, forgetting oneself. The 
ability to succeed in this path without masochism and without annihi- 
lating one's affective, intellectual and professional personality - such 
would seem to be the stakes to be won through guiltless maternity. It 
then becomes a creation in the strong sense of the term. For this 
moment, Utopian? 
On the other hand, it is in the aspiration towards artistic and, in 

Women's Time 207 

particular, literary creation that woman's desire for affirmation now 
manifests itself. Why literature? 

Is it because, faced with social norms, literature reveals a certain 
knowledge and sometimes the truth itself about an otherwise repressed, 
nocturnal, secret and unconscious universe? Because it thus redoubles 
the social contract by exposing the unsaid, the uncanny? And because 
it makes a game, a space of fantasy and pleasure, out of the abstract 
and frustrating order of social signs, the words of everyday communica- 
tion? Flaubert said, 'Madame Bovary, c'est moi'. Today many women 
imagine, 'Flaubert, c'est moi'. This identification with the potency of 
the imaginary is not only an identification, an imaginary potency (a 
fetish, a belief in the maternal penis maintained at all costs), as a far 
too normative view of the social and symbolic relationship would have 
it. This identification also bears witness to women's desire to lift the 
weight of what is sacrificial in the social contract from their shoulders, 
to nourish our societies with a more flexible and free discourse, one 
able to name what has thus far nevei been an object of circulation in 
the community: the enigmas of the body, the dreams, secret joys, 
shames, hatreds of the second sex. 

It is understandable from this that women's writing has lately attracted 
the maximum attention of both 'specialists' and the media. 25 The 
pitfalls encountered along the way, however, are not to be minimized: 
for example, does one not read there a relendess belittling of male writers 
whose books, nevertheless, often serve as 'models' for countless pro- 
ductions by women? Thanks to the feminist label, does one not sell 
numerous works whose naive whining or market-place romanticism 
would otherwise have been rejected as anachronistic? And does one not 
find the pen of many a female writer being devoted to phantasmic attacks 
against Language and Sign as the ultimate supports of phallocrauc 
power, in the name of a semi-aphonic corporality whose truth can only 
be found in that which is 'gestural' or 'tonal'? 

And yet, no matter how dubious the results of these recent produc- 
tions by women, the symptom is there - women are writing, and the 
air is heavy with expectation: What will they write that is new? 

In the Name of the Father, the Son. . .and the Woman? 

These few elements of the manifestations by the new generation of 
women in Europe seem to me to demonstrate that, beyond the socio- 

208 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

political level where it is generally inscribed (or inscribes itself), the 
women's movement - in its present stage, less aggressive but more artful 
- is situated within the very framework of the religious crisis of our 

I call 'religion' this phantasmic necessity on the part of speaking beings 
to provide themselves with a representation (animal, female, male, 
parental, etc.) in place of what constitutes them as such, in other words, 
symbolization - the double articulation and syntactic sequence of 
language, as well as its preconditions or substitutes (thoughts, affects, 
etc.). The elements of the current practice of feminism that we have 
just brought to light seem precisely to constitute such a representation 
which makes up for the frustrations imposed on women by the anterior 
code (Christianity or its lay humanist variant). The fact that this new 
ideology has affinities, often revindicated by its creators, with so-called 
matriarchal beliefs (in other words, those beliefs characterizing 
matrilinear societies) should not overshadow its radical novelty. This 
ideology seems to me to be part of the broader anti-sacrificial current 
which is animating our culture and which, in its protest against the 
constraints of the socio-symbolic contract, is no less exposed to the risks 
of violence and terrorism. At this level of radicalism, it is the very 
principle of sociality which is challenged. 

Certain contemporary thinkers consider, as is well known, that moder- 
nity is characterized as the first epoch in human history in which human 
beings attempt to live without religion. In its present form, is not 
feminism in the process of becoming one? 

Or is it, on the contrary and as avant-garde feminists hope, that having 
started with the idea of difference, feminism will be able to break free 
of its belief in Woman, Her power, Her writing, so as to channel this 
demand for difference into each and every element of the female whole, 
and, finally, to bring out the singularity of each woman, and beyond 
this, her multiplicities, her plural languages, beyond the horizon, beyond 
sight, beyond faith itself? 

A factor for ultimate mobilization? Or a factor for analysis? 

Imaginary support in a technocratic era where all narcissism is 
frustrated? Or instruments fitted to these times in which the cosmos, 
atoms and cells - our true contemporaries - call for the constitution 
of a fluid and free subjectivity? 

The question has been posed. Is to pose it already to answer it? 

Another generation is another space 

If the preceding can be said - the question whether all this is true belongs 
to a different register - it is undoubtedly because it is now possible 
to gain some distance on these two preceding generations of women. 
This implies, of course, that a third generation is now forming, at least 
in Europe. I am not speaking of a new group of young women (though 
its importance should not be underestimated) or of another 'mass 
feminist movement' taking the torch passed on from the second genera- 
tion. My usage of the word 'generation' implies less a chronology than 
a signifying space, a both corporeal and desiring mental space. So it can 
be argued that as of now a third attitude is possible, thus a third genera- 
tion, which does not exclude - quite to the contrary - the parallel 
existence of all three in the same historical time, or even that they be 
interwoven one with the other. 

In this third attitude, which I strongly advocate - which I imagine? 
- the very dichotomy man/woman as an opposition between two rival 
entities may be understood as belonging to metaphysics. What can 
'identity', even 'sexual identity', mean in a new theoretical and scien- 
tific space where the very notion of identity is challenged? 26 I am not 
simply suggesting a very hypothetical bisexuality which, even if it 
existed, would only, in fact, be the aspiration towards the totality of 
one of the sexes and thus an effacing of difference. What I mean is, 
first of all, the demassification of the problematic of difference, which 
would imply, in a first phase, an apparent de-dramatization of the 'fight 
to the death' between rival groups and thus between the sexes. And 
this not in the name of some reconciliation - feminism has at least had 
the merit of showing what is irreducible and even deadly in the social 
contract - but in order that the struggle, the implacable difference, the 
violence be conceived in the very place where it operates with the 
maximum intransigence, in other words, in personal and sexual iden- 
tity itself, so as to make it disintegrate in its very nucleus. 

It necessarily follows that this involves risks not only for what we 
understand today as 'personal equilibrium' but also for social equi- 
librium itself, made up as it now is of the counterbalancing of aggressive 
and murderous forces massed in social, national, religious and political 
groups. But is it not the insupportable situation of tension and explosive 
risk that the existing 'equilibrium' presupposes which leads some of 

210 Wameriy Psychoanalysis, Politics 

those who suffer from it to divest it of its economy, to detach themselves 
from it and to seek another means of regulating difference? 

To restrict myself here to a personal level, as related to the question 
of women, I see arising, under the cover of a relative indifference towards 
the militance of the first and second generations, an attitude of retreat 
from sexism (male as well as female) and, gradually, from any kind of 
anthropomorphism. The fact that this might quickly become another 
form of spiritualism turning its back on social problems, or else a form 
of repression 27 ready to support all status quos, should not hide the 
radicalness of the process. This process could be summarized as an 
interiorization of the founding separation of the socio-symbolic contract, as 
an introduction of its cutting edge into the very interior of every iden- 
tity whether subjective, sexual, ideological, or so forth. This in such 
a way that the habitual and increasingly explicit attempt to fabricate 
a scapegoat victim as foundress of a society or a counter-society may 
be replaced by the analysis of the potentialities of vktxm/executioner which 
characterize each identity, each subject, each sex. 

"What discourse, if not that of a religion, would be able to support 
this adventure which surfaces as a real possibility, after both the 
achievements and the impasses of the present ideological reworkings, 
in which feminism has participated? It seems to me that the role of what 
is usually called 'aesthetic practices' must increase not only to counter- 
balance the storage and uniformity of information by present-day mass 
media, data-bank systems and, in particular, modern communications 
technology, but also to demystify the identity of the symbolic bond itself, 
to demystify, therefore, the community of language as a universal and 
unifying tool, one which totalizes and equalizes. In order to bring out 
- along with the singularity of each person and, even more, along with 
the multiplicity of every person's possible identifications (with atoms, 
e.g., stretching from the family to the stars) - the relativity of his/her 
symbolic as well as biological existence, according to the variation in his/her 
specific symbolic capacities. And in order to emphasize the responsibility 
which all will immediately face of putting this fluidity into play against 
the threats of death which are unavoidable whenever an inside and an 
outside, a self and an other, one group and another, are constituted. 
At this level of interiorization with its social as well as individual stakes, 
what I have called 'aesthetic practices' are undoubtedly nothing other 
than the modern reply to the eternal question of morality. At least, this 
is how we might understand an ethics which, conscious of the fact that 

Women* s Time 211 

its order is sacrificial, reserves part of the burden for each of its 
adherents, therefore declaring them guilty while immediately affording 
them the possibility for jouissance, for various productions, for a life 
made up of both challenges and differences. 

Spinoza's question can be taken up again here: Are women subject 
to ethics? If not to that ethics defined by classical philosophy - in rela- 
tionship to which the ups and downs of feminist generations seem 
dangerously precarious - are women not already participating in the 
rapid dismantling that our age is experiencing at various levels (from 
wars to drugs to artificial insemination) and which poses the demand 
for a new ethics? The answer to Spinoza's question can be affirmative 
only at the cost of considering feminism as but a moment in the thought 
of that anthropomorphic identity which currently blocks the horizon 
of the discursive and scientific adventure of our species. 


1 Sigmund Freud and Carl G. Jung, Correspondence (Paris: Gallimard, 1975), vol. I, 
p. 87. 

2 R. Spitz, La Premiere Annie delaviede I'enfant [First year of life: a psychoanalytic 
study of normal and deviant development of object relations] (Paris: PUF, 1958); 
D. Winnicott, Jeu el rialiti [Playing and reality] (Paris: Gallimard, 1975); Julia 
Kristeva, 'Noms de lieu', in Polyiogue (Paris: Seuil, 1977), translated as 'Place names' 
in Julia Kristeva, Desire in Language: a semiotic approach to literature and art, ed. 
Leon S. Roudiez, tr. Thomas Gora, Alice Jardine and Leon Roudiez (New York: 
Columbia University Press, 1980). 

3 Plato, Timeus 52: 'Indefinitely a place; it cannot be destroyed, but provides a ground 
for all that can come into being; itself being perceptible, outside of all sensation, 
by means of a sort of bastard reasoning; barely assuming credibility, it is precisely 
that which makes us dream when we perceive it, and affirm that all that exists must 
be somewhere, in a determined place . . . ' (author's translation). 

4 As most readers of recent French theory in translation know, le feminin does not 
have the same pejorative connotations it has come to have in English. It is a term 
used to speak about women in general, but, as used most often in this article, it 
probably comes closest to our 'female' as defined by Elaine Showalter in A Literature 
of Their Own (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977). I have therefore 
used either 'women' or 'female' according to the context. - AJ. 

5 I have retained jouissance - that word for pleasure which defies translation - as 
it is rapidly becoming a 'believable neologism' in English (see the glossary in Desire 
in Language). - AJ. 

6 This particular mythology has important implications - equal only to those of the 
Oedipal myth - for current French thought. - A J. 

212 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

7 See Julia Kristeva, 'Stabat Mater' in this volume, first published as 'Herlthique 
de l'amour', Tel Quel, 74 (1977), pp. 30-49. 

8 See H. C. Puech, La Gnose et le temps (Paris: Gallimard, 1977). 

9 The term 'identification' belongs to a wide semantic field ranging from everyday 
language to philosophy and psychoanalysis. While Kristeva is certainly referring 
in principle to its elaboration in Freudian and T -aranian psychoanalysis, it can be 
understood here as a logic, in its most general sense (see the entry on 'identification' 
in Jean Laplanche and J. B. Pontalis, Vocabulaire de la psychanalyse [The language of 
psychoanalysis], Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1967; rev. ed., 1976). - AJ. 

10 See D. Desanti, 'L'autre sexe des bolcheviks', Tel Quel, 76 (1978); Julia Kristeva, 
Des Chinoises (Paris: des femmes, 1975), translated as On Chinese Women, tr. Anita 
Barrows (London: Marion Boyars, 1977). [See also the excerpts from About Chinese 
Women in this volume.] 

1 1 See Arthur Hertzberg, The French Enlightenment and the Jews (New York: Columbia 
University Press, 1968); Les Juifs et la revolution franfaise, ed. B. Blumenkranz and 
A. Seboul (Paris: Editions Privat, 1976). 

12 Here, 'symbolic' is being more strictly used in terms of that function defined by 
Kristeva in opposition to the semiotic: 'it involves the thetic phase, the identifica- 
tion of subject and its distinction from objects, and the establishment of a sign 
system'. - AJ. 

13 See, in general, Jacques Lacan, Ecrits (Paris: Seuil, 1966) and in particular, Jacques 
Lacan, Le Seminaire XX: Encore (Paris: Seuil, 1975). - AJ. 

14 This work is periodically published in various academic women's journals, one of 
the most prestigious being Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, University 
of Chicago Press. Also of note are the special issues: 'Ecriture, feminity, feminisme', 
La Revue des Sciences Humaines (Lille III), no. 4 (1977); and 'Les femmes et la 
philosophic', Le Doctrinal de sapience (Editions Solin), no. 3 (1977). 

15 See linguistic research on 'female language': Robin Lakoff, Language and Women's 
Place (New York: Harper & Row, 1974); Mary R. Key, Male/Female Language 
(Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1973); A. M. Houdebine, 'Les femmes et la 
langue', Tel Quel, 74 (1977), pp. 84-95. The contrast between these 'empirical' 
investigations of women's 'speech acts' and much of the research in France on the 
conceptual bases for a 'female language' must be emphasized here. It is somewhat 
helpful, if ultimately inaccurate, to think of the former as an 'external' study of 
language and the latter as an 'internal' exploration of the process of signification. 
For further contrast, see, e.g., 'Part II: Contemporary Feminist Thought in France: 
T ranslating Difference', in The Future of Difference, ed. Hester Eisenstein and Alice 
Jardine (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1980); the 'Introductions' to New French Feminisms, 
ed. Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron (Amherst, Mass.: University of 
Massachusetts Press, 1980); and for a very helpful overview of the problem of 
'difference and language' in France, see Stephen Heath, 'Difference', in Screen, 
19 no. 3 (Autumn 1978), pp. 51-112. - AJ. 

16 This is one of the more explicit references to the mass marketing of 'ecriture 
feminine' in Paris over the last ten years. - AJ. 

17 The expression a leur corps defendant translates as 'against their will', but here the 
emphasis is on women's bodies: literally, 'against their bodies'. I have retained the 

Women's Time 213 

former expression in English, partly because of its obvious intertextuality with Susan 
Brownmiller's Against Our Will (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975). Women are 
increasingly describing their experience of the violence of the symbolic contract as 
a form of rape. - AJ. 

1 8 Many women in the West who are once again finding all doors closed to them above 
a certain level of employment, especially in the current economic chaos, may find 
this statement, even qualified, troubling, to say the least. It is accurate, however, 
in principle: whether that of infinite capitalist recuperation or increasing socialist 
expansion - within both economies, our integration functions as a kind of operative 
illusion. - AJ. 

19 See Des Chinoises. 

20 See M. A. Macciocchi, Elements pour ttne analyse du fascisme (Paris: 10/18, 1976); 
Michele Mattelart, 'Le coup d'etat au feminin', Les Temps Modemes (January 1975). 

21 The principles of a 'sacrificial anthropology' are developed by Rend Girard in La 
Violence el le sacre [Violence and the sacred] (Paris: Grasset, 1972) and esp. in Des 
choses cachees depuis la fondation du monde (Paris: Grasset, 1978). 

22 Cf. Micheline Enriquez, 'Fantasmes paranoiaques: differences des sexes, homo- 
sexuality, loi du pere', Topiques, 13 (1974). 

23 See Jacques Lacan, 'Dieu et la jouissance de la femme', in Encore (Paris: Seuil, 
1975), pp. 61-71, esp. p. 68. This seminar has remained a primary critical and 
polemical focus for multiple tendencies in the French women's movement. For a 
brief discussion of the seminar in English, see Heath (n. 15 above). - AJ. 

24 The 'split subject' (from Spaltung as both 'splitting' and 'cleavage'), as used in 
Freudian psychoanalysis, here refers directly to Kristeva's 'subject in process/in 
question/on trial' as opposed to the unity of the transcendental ego. - A J. 

25 Again a reference to icriture feminine as generically labelled in France over the past 
few years and not to women's writing in general. - AJ. 

26 See Seminar on Identity directed by Levi-Strauss (Paris: Grasset & Fasquelle, 1977). 

27 Repression {le refoulement or Verdrdngung) as distinguished from the foreclosure 
(la forclusion or Verwerfung) evoked earlier in the article (see Laplanche and Pontalis). 

Translated by Alice Jardine and Harry Blake 

The True-Real 

First published as 'Le vreel' in Julia Kristeva and Jean-Michel Ribette (eds), 
Folk viriti: viriti et vraisemblance du texte psychotique (Paris: Seuil, 1979, 
pp. 1 1-35), 'The True-Real' was originally written as a paper for Kristeva's 
seminar at the Service de psychiatrie of the Hdpital de la Gte* Universitaire 
in Paris. The original edition contains a transcript of the discussion among 
seminar members after the paper, a discussion not translated here, although 
Kristeva's own references to the specific context of the seminar have been 

In this ambitious essay, Kristeva coins the term 'le vreel' in order to account 
for the modernist revolution in Western thought and art, which she sees as 
the effort to formulate a truth that would be the real in the Lacanian sense 
of the term, or in other words: a 'true-real' or vriel (from le vrai [the true] 
and le reel [the real]). The speaking subject in search of the 'true-real' no longer 
distinguishes between the sign and its referent in the usual Saussurian way, 
but takes the signifier for the real (treats the signifier as the real) in a move 
which leaves no space for the signified. This 'concretization' of the signifier 
is not only typical of modernist art, it is also a striking feature of the discourse 
of psychotic patients (such as, among others, the famous French modernist 
writer Antonin Artaud). 

Before exploring the function of the true-real in the discourse of psychosis, 
Kristeva spends some time situating the term in relation to the history of the 
concept of truth in Western philosophy and logic. Her account of the Platonic 
theory of the relation between language and truth presents a particular problem 
of translation, since Kristeva's original French repeatedly refers to the figure 
ofthe logoth&te in Plato's Craiyhs . The original Greek, however, has nomothete 
(from nomos meaning 'law'), and most translators of Plato, whether English 
or French, have therefore translated the term as 'lawgiver' or ligislateur. The 
original Greek, however, makes it abundantly clear that it is punning on the 
similarity of sound between nomo (law) and onoma (name or noun), thus giving 
rise to a field of associations around names given as laws, the name as law, 
etc. Kristeva's logothdte, which literally means 'word-giver', draws on the 

The True-Real 215 

name/law pun in order to explicate her own particular argument about the 
nature of psychotic words. We have decided to translate her logothete as 
'namegiver', in the hope that this will capture some of the original Platonic 
flavour as well as Kristeva's specific use of the word. 

In the Cratylus Plato raises the question of whether names (words) are signifi- 
cant by nature or convention. At an early stage in the dialogue, Socrates 
introduces the namegiver as a kind of intermediate solution to the problem. 
A mythical and authoritative creature, the namegiver imposes names on things 
due to his superior knowledge of the truth (the ideas): a role that would seem 
to make language both quasi-conventional (words are imposed) and quasi- 
essentialist (words are imposed as a result of insight into the true nature of 
things). Kristeva's fascination with this figure seems to stem from the fact 
that on the one hand he symbolizes the Law that according to Lacanian 
psychoanalytical theory rules the acquisition of language, while on the other 
hand he represents that space of uncertainty and ambiguity which, as we shall 
see, is central to Kristeva's theory of the psychotic origins of any irruption 
of the true-real, whether as discourse or hallucinations. 

According to Lacan, psychosis is characterized by the foreclosure of the Name 
of the Father. Foreclosure, a term introduced by Lacan, denotes a primordial 
expulsion of the fundamental signifier (the phallus) from the subject's symbolic 
universe. Having foreclosed the castrating phallus, the psychotic subject can 
thus be said never to have entered the symbolic order. This is why foreclosure 
differs from repression: what has been foreclosed is something that never entered 
the subject's unconscious in the first place. Unlike repressed signifiers, fore- 
closed signifiers do not return from the 'inside', they re-emerge in the real, 
particularly through the phenomenon of hallucination. (For further discus- 
sion of foreclosure, psychosis and repression, see J. Laplanche and J.-B. 
Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis, tr. Donald Nicholson-Smith, 
London: The Hogarth Press, 1980). 

Gosely linked to the idea of foreclosure is the Freudian term of Verleugnung, 
mostly translated as disavowal (more rarely as denial). After French usage, 
Verleugnung is now also increasingly translated as denegation (French: deniga- 
tion). Denegation or disavowal is a specific mode of defence which consists 
in the subject's refusing to recognize the reality of a traumatic perception. 
According to Laplanche and Pontalis, Freud invokes this mechanism particu- 
larly when accounting for fetishism and the psychoses. 

Denegation should be carefully distinguished from negation. Although the 
original German for negation, Verneinung, suggests disavowal as well as 
negation, Kristeva's usage follows post-Lacanian tradition in distinguishing 
between the two. Negation then is simply the act of linguistically or concep- 
tually negating a statement: 'No, I did not say that.' For Freud negation is 
a sign of the lifting of repression: it is the subject's last-ditch defence against the 

216 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

repressed idea which here is emerging. It is therefore clearly different from 
denegation which, as we have seen, denotes the absolute refusal to perceive 
a fact imposed by the external world. 

Kristeva's argument then is that, as the true-real falls outside the framework 

of what is considered intelligible or plausible in the socialized space of the 

symbolic order, it is necessary at once to consider why this is so and what 

it means when the true-real actually occurs in language. The first question 

is answered by linking the true-real to the psychotic foreclosure of the phallic 

signifier representing the Law of the Father. The second question requires 

further study of the rhetoric of psychosis. Kristeva discovers that even in the 

discourse of hysterics (who, theoretically speaking, as neurotics should only 

suffer from symptoms produced by repression, not foreclosure) can be shot 

through with heterogeneous semiotic spaces (hallucinations, 'meaningless' 

phrases indicating the insistence of the true-real) which mark the irruption 

of the real into the discourse of the hysteric. The hallucination, which Kristeva, 

following C. S. Peirce, labels an icon - i.e., a signifier which is or incarnates 

its referent - marks a pre-symbolic space and thereby also a gap or a hole in 

the hysterical subject. For Kristeva, the psychotic hallucinations occurring 

in some cases of hysteria are linked to the anal drive which dominates the 

subject in the period before the recognition of castration and sexual difference. 

The iconic hallucination (the signifier 'green' becoming a vision of the colour 

green, for example) marks the unstable point in which the archaic (pre-Oedipal) 

mother is not yet separated from the paternal (phallic) instance. Consequently 

the recurrence of the true-real or the iconic hallucination marks the confusion 

of the sexes, and the reduction of the Other (as the site of the signifier) to 

a 'pre-object' prefiguring the phallic signifier of the symbolic order, but situated 

in the Imaginary. 

This process of obliteration of sexual difference and destabilizauon of the 
paternal signifier is then shown to be a feature of certain linguistic categories 
often exploited by psychotics (such as Schreber who furnishes some of 
Kristeva's examples here) for their intrinsic instability and ambiguity: 
demonstratives (deictics) and proper names. 

The True-Real 

When we listen to the contemporary forms of discourse that try to 
expound on its source and development, we recognize that the great 
disruptive force in present-day speech can be summed up as follows: 
the truth they seek (to say) is the real, that is, the 'true-real' [vreel\. 

The True-Real 217 

This obsessive fear, which we have always possessed, has become today 
a massive (if not mass) burden, all the more so since no common code 
exists to justify, and so neutralize, it. 

Perhaps the Freudian discovery of the unconscious was merely the 
cautious start of an epistemological and existential revolution which 
destroyed the whole rational system installed by the classical age and 
marked out before it by ancient philosophy. We know (and I shall return 
briefly to this) how logic and ontology have inscribed the question of 
truth within judgement (or sentence structure) and being, dismissing as 
madness, mysticism or poetry any attempt to articulate that impossible 
element which henceforth can only be designated by the Lacanian 
category of the real. After the flowering of mysticism, classical ration- 
ality, first by embracing Folly with Erasmus, and then by excluding 
it with Descartes, attempted to enunciate the real as truth by setting 
limits on Madness; modernity, on the other hand, opens up this 
enclosure in a search for other forms capable of transforming or 
rehabilitating the status of truth. 

The spectacles of mass terror and terrorism, as well as the inquiry 
into the 'languages' of the unnameable provided by the analysis of 
psychosis and the new experiences of modern theatre, painting and 
literature, are just some of the indications of how the true has lost its 
former logical and ontological security, and is now expressed instead 
as the true-real. 

However, this irruption immediately raises the problem of socializa- 
tion. How can this fear of the true-real be signified and included in a 
(social) contrct, however modified? The old question returns: how can 
the true-real be made plausible? 

Let us not be fooled by words: our perspective goes well beyond the 
limits of the old problem of rhetoric. The traditional true [vrai\ and 
plausible [vraisemblable] , which will be considered, will be stretched 
by the 'true-real' [vreel\ (an area of risk and salvation for the speaking 
being) and by semblance [semblant], which is given a social meaning by 
its own perverse cunning. This gives enunciation a topology constructed 
by heterogeneous spaces which is completely different from ontological 

At all events, this is how I have understood Dr Consoli's suggestion 
that we concentrate our studies this year on the topic of the 'truth or 
plausibility of the psychotic text' - a formulation arrived at through 
his work as an analyst at the university hospital and his attempt to speed 

218 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

up and refine this process with the help of the apparatus of semiology. 
The suggestion could not fail to interest me, as it seemed to outline 
with the maximum clarity and the minimum constraint the direction 
in which we have been moving for several years, both here and at La 
Borde: a confrontation of the psychotic text by semiology and psycho- 
analysis that would examine the extreme case of psychosis in order to 
isolate certain characteristics relevant to any speaking subject. 

This means we shall be led to consider how the foreclosure that 
decapitates the Name of the Father and snatches the subject away, in- 
to the real, is contained within different kinds of discourse at the very 
point at which each speaks its true-real. We shall therefore have to 
envisage certain kinds of foreclosure (specific to the limits of each 
discourse), if we accept that psychosis is the crisis of truth in language. 

Beside this typology of foreclosure, another, even more delicate task 
might consist of envisaging the linguistic and rhetorical categories as 
'strategies of discourse * that would allow the subject to articulate abrupt 
passages between the real, the imaginary and the symbolic: in other 
words, how the real can be articulated through various linguistic and 
stylistic categories in order to create a possible distinction betweeen true, 
false or plausible. This archaeology of enunciation [enonciation] would 
then lead to a consideration of the subjective conditions of production 
of its elements and operations. 

But if the semiological or linguistic description (and critique) of 
categories is possible and relatively easy, to the extent that its problem 
is not that of the true-real, the reintroduction of the latter, subsequent 
to this description, adds an analytic dimension to the strategies of 
discourse. These are as much the morphological or syntactic categories 
(pronouns, demonstratives, complementation, modalization, etc.) as the 
construction of large units (the narrative) or intersubjective relations 
(presupposition, interrogation, etc.) within discourse. To impose a 
psychoanalytic perspective on those strategies of discourse that are used 
by a text, especially the psychotic text surrounding us here, means 
examining in depth a question that has remained unresolved in today's 
sciences of symbols: what topoi are the subject of enunciation permitted 
to use, by so-called natural language on the one hand, and by rhetorical 
operations on the other? 

In this session, I shall offer only a few remarks, to be enriched by 
your fortnightly expositions of your own work in the area of 'strategies 
of discourse and their relation to truth', which our observations of 

The True-Real 219 

patients may perhaps illuminate or displace. My remarks take the 
following form: 

- a rapid, historical look at the various philosophico-logical concepts 
of truth; 

- the Freudian concept of truth; 

- a humdrum example: hysterical hallucination; 

- two linguistic examples, which will help to reveal the true position 
of the subject of enunciation: demonstratives and proper names; 

- a thematic example: truth as murder or castration (Schreber, Artaud) . 

The artificial truth of the namegjver 

To continue, then, let me briefly recall the philosophical tradition from 
which an analytic concept of enunciation breaks loose. 

From Plato on, Being is already a true Being: esse verum, as the 
scholastics were to put it. The strategy of this formulation gradually 
becomes clearer: the subject of enunciation has foreclosed his real, 
'natural' dependence as well as his symbolic debt to the Other. This 
subject, who is punctual, atomic, put up simply in order to be denied 
in terms of volume and dynamics (and who will become, with some 
supplementary constraints, the subject of science), falls within a register 
of a visionary representation that must be sutured in order to preserve 
it from psychosis. Once the Heraclitean Logos has been transformed 
into visual images, anything that can be considered external to its order 
takes on the uncomfortable status, not so much of an object, as of an 
object-spoken-in-a-representing-utterance [enonc£\\ the status of a 
complement. Since the foreclosure of the real and of the Other brings 
about the fall of the subject of enunciation, the ensuing gap [biance] 
is elaborated through a process of subtle suture between different orders: 
Being, which has become an object, now becomes a complement in the 
linguistic chain of a discourse that can speak the truth precisely because 
of this transformation. This shows why the truth in question has nothing 
to do with the authenticity of real Being, but is synonymous with the 
coherence of the complement-formation, which is what this denied subject 
is saying. It is a truth of the order of syntax (whoever says 'complement' 
says 'syntax') that can be linguistic or logical, but that nevertheless 
governs the conditions of production both of the subject of enunciation 
and of its potential multiplicity of statements. 1 

220 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

Grammar, logic, ontology - sentence, judgement, being - syntax, 
syllogism, reference: the philosophico-logical debate on truth oscillates 
between three axes which give rise to different movements and disci- 
plines. Since truth consists of whatever is demonstrable, it either frees 
itself from the laws of the sentence and the order in which elements are 
given; or it lies in the psychic act of nominating and judging; or else 
it is to be located in the correspondence between this act and a referent, 
or to Being in general. The namegiver in Plato's Cratylus is undoubtedly 
the prototype of this master-subject of the law who guarantees the 
possibility of truth in Platonic discourse, by being presented as complete 
and untouchable, like a God or a fictional creation. 

For all the distinctions I have just recalled are indeed to be found 
in Plato, with the famous suggestion that there is a 'necessary connec- 
tion' between the truth of the sentence and the truth of the judgement, 
between the parts of discourse and thought: the Forms (eide), that are 
neither things nor ideas, but which institute the order of 'universals'. 
A sentence is true if the arrangement of its parts corresponds to a 
connection between the eidetic essences: from this we derive the notion 
of truth as revelation, as the uncovering of its eide, as aletheia (see the 
Theaetetus, for example, which has been commented on by Heidegger). 
Aristotle, more formalist, perceives one single class of propositions 
(logoi), that of declaratives which can be true or false, while prayers 
and orders have only rhetorical value {On Interpretation). But the 
Metaphysics is much more Platonic: a statement is true if it states 
whatever is. Being is formulated in this way, without any explicit relation 
to the 'speaking subject' other than that of the internal dependence 
(resonance, interdiction) between Being and Logos revealed later by 
phenomenology. However, if no economy or subject of enunciation is 
conceived of, already it is no longer the sentence which is true, but 
what is expressed by the sentence, namely the proposition. This is the 
direction which medieval philosophy was to take. 

But the ongoing subjectivization of truth, the fact that it depends 
on the namegiver inevitably gives rise to uneasiness in the face of another 
truth which cannot be determined and which does not even operate 
in its own field of effects, although it is always evoked, like a phantom, 
by those who wish to understand: that is to say, the semblance of truth 
which is at work in the discourse of art. This widens the field of the 
plausible, making it decidable but uncertain, making homologous with 
the truth the discourse of another speaking being, who is no longer 

The True-Real 221 

a namegiver but a ludic accomplice of the law: the subject of art, and 
the object of rhetoric. 2 

With Abe lard, but also with Peter of Ailly and Gregory of Rimini, 
the Middle Ages essentially returns to the theory of truth as being 
something peculiar to the proposition (but not to the sentence) and 
therefore to judgement. At the centre of its preoccupations, therefore, 
is the relation between the speaking subject and a universe of things 
which are divine and true to the extent that they refer to the divine 
Thing (Una Res). Consequently, this theory puts forward the most 
subjective concept of semantics possible: that of modi significandi. 

Modernity, in the major philosophical movements, relativizes the 
notion of truth, and, while maintaining it, often presents it to us in 
an extremely attractive way. Leibniz thus recognizes that truth cannot 
be solely an affair of actual propositions, but that unformulated prior 
propositions (the pre-supposition?) must be found. He grants truth to 
non-existent but possible propositions (envisaging a plurality of worlds, 
including a non-human one). This truth of the sole signifier is suggested 
in a startling way in the dialogue De connexione inter res et verba et veritatis 
realitate {New Essays, IV, v): truth is a network of signs which can be 
classed according to their printing ink (although Leibniz does admit 
that truth all the same belongs only to certain signs). The more sombre 
Hegel stresses the inseparability of truth from falsity in the Spirit's move- 
ment as absolute totality, and, alongside assertions about the possibility 
of attaining truth in ethics, gives this definition which acknowledges 
the importance of the 'uncanny': l Tke truth is thus the bacchanalian revel, 
where not a member is sober, and because every member no sooner 
becomes detached than it eo ipso collapses straightaway, the revel is just 
as much a state of transparent unbroken calm' (my emphasis). 3 

The break between the concept of a truth which we might call 
theoretical and which acknowledges the place of the real, and a 
linguistico-logical truth, is from this point on complete. In its rupture 
with classical philosophy logical positivism draws out all the conse- 
quences of such a break. Thus, for Frege, truth is confused with 
reference. Uber Sinn und Bedeutung therefore postulates that the 
distinction between truth and falsity does not hold for fiction since its 
sentences have no reference; but that it applies to historical discourse 
since the latter is referential. 4 Tarski is even more rigorous in his use 
of this distinction: 'true' and 'false' apply only to sentences, not to 
propositions ('The Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages'); but 

222 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

since the use of a sentence to nominate an existing object is the criterion 
of its truth, and since this use in natural languages depends on circum- 
stance, then truth, in the strict sense of the term, that is, eternal truth, 
applies only to formal languages. 

This brings us to the end of the chain of development which led the 
philosophy of logic to exclude the question of its own truth as it had 
originally posed it, from 'natural' discourse. Since the namegiver and 
his true utterance are shown to be an artifice, thought is left with only 
one alternative: either to conserve this term (truth) for formalized 
languages and metaphoric (strong) usage in religious discourse; or else 
to move towards another notion of truth for so-called natural discourses, 
that is, for differentiated subjective structures. It is the latter which 
is the wager of the Freudian undertaking. 

Truth as separation 

Freud rarely uses the notion of truth. In the New Introductory Lectures 
on Psycho-Analysis (1932), truth appears as something belonging to 
religion, or a Weltanschauung. Psychoanalysis can never be such a thing, 
although there is a scientific truth, despite the scientific relativism (an 
allusion to Heisenberg) which Freud calls a 'nihilism'. It is obvious, 
then, why the Freudian text most concerned with 'truth' is one on 
religion, Moses and Monotheism, completed in London in 1938. It is 
a text, as we know, which has been endlessly discussed, but one that 
is of prime importance for an understanding of Freud, the real issues 
at stake in psychoanalysis and perhaps even in monotheism and what 
remains of it today. Let us re-read a few propositions: 

It has not been possible to demonstrate in other connections that 
the human intellect has a particularly fine flair for the truth or 
that the human mind shows any special inclination for recognizing 
the truth. We have rather found, on the contrary, that our intellect 
very easily goes astray without any warning, and that nothing is 
more easily believed by us than what, without reference to the 
truth, comes to meet our wishful illusions. 5 

This scepticism introduces a distinction between 'historical truth' and 
'material truth'. 6 The historical truth is a 'small fragment of truth', 
'a core', but always repressed; and it is its return, in the form of a neurotic 

The True-Real 223 

symptom or religion, which the subject takes to be the whole, 'material' 
truth. ('Historical') truth is therefore merely a part (not The Whole), 
('material') truth is merely deformed: 

We have long understood that a portion of forgotten truth lies 
hidden in delusional ideas, that when this returns it has to put 
up with distortions and misunderstandings, and that the com- 
pulsive conviction which attaches to the delusion arises from this 
core of truth and spreads out on to the errors that wrap it round. 
We must grant an ingredient such as this of what may be called 
historical truth to the dogmas of religion as well. 7 

To the extent to which it is distorted, it may be described as a 
delusion-, in so far as it brings a return of the past, it must be called 
the truth. Psychiatric delusions, too, contain a small fragment of 
truth and the patient's conviction extends over from this truth on 
to its delusional wrappings. 8 

These observations do not simply mean that such a delusion or such 
a religion contains an event that actually occurred. The proof of this lies 
in the fact that, for Freud, the 'historical' event in Moses is the 
'existence' of the Egyptian called Moses, an event not based on any 
real historical document (the texts on which Sellin based his work seem 
contestable), but on a narrative construction, a story, a fiction created 
by Freud himself. 

On the other hand, what this narrative fiction constructs as material 
truth, or as a deformation of 'historical truth', is the plausible evolution, 
not of an event of historical reality, but of a process that creates the 
('historical') advent of logic: the process of separation. In fact, the 
Freudian narrative (whose structuration of plausibility can be analysed 
a la Propp) exists to give meaning, motivation and plausibility to certain 
'universals' that recur throughout this narration: alterity, strangeness, 
disavowal of identity, separation and murder. Moses is not a Jew, the Jews 
leave Egypt, kill Moses, etc. One can even risk the interpretation that 
this Freudian narrative is the obsessional's way of rationalizing another, 
more 'psychotic' Freudian discovery concerning the negativity of the 
symbolic function. Separation, rejection, displacement, gap [beance] - 
isn't it in this way that language constitutes itself and operates in the 
radical discoveries of Freud? In this sense, even if one adheres to the 

224 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

Freudian thesis of the murder of the father as a 'historical' (or the) 
event that is basic to humanity, one can say that all of psychoanalysis 
corroborates and in a way demonstrates this theory - albeit through 
a process of renewal within each speaking subject - through the way 
in which it reveals the modification, displacement and negativity at work 
within the symbolic function. The murder of the father is thus inscribed 
within the linguistic sign, which does not necessarily mean that it never 
took place. Moses and Monotheism is not only the most Christian of all 
Freud's writings (since he affirms that Christians unknowingly speak 
the truth about - or truth as - murder: that is, they absolve themselves 
with this avowal, but need a guilty party, namely the Jews, in order 
to have something by which to measure the price of guilt, and so institute 
the Jewish-Christian couple that is intrinsic to monotheism). It also 
shows that the psychoanalytic mechanism, to the extent that it leads the 
subject into the negation and denegation which structure language, is 
an invention that is hyper-Catholic, in the sense of being post-Catholic. 
Not only is truth murder (as the Jewish Golem says: 'emeth - meth'); 
not only have we killed the father (enacted by Catholicism); but truth 
is nothing more than language as a mechanism of displacement, nega- 
tion and denegation. Freud's work therefore traces a movement in which 
truth is continually put up and knocked down, a process that confronts 
it in its safest haven, religion, destroys it as identity (Being, correspon- 
dence to Being, etc.) and leaves behind only a system of passages, folds, 
thresholds, catastrophes - in short, negation. 

Within Freudian thought, precise operations organize various aspects 
of this modification by which truth is always already 'falsified': the 
constitutive negativity (Negativitdf) of the symbol; the repression 
(Verdrangung) of the content of affect; foreclosure (Verwerfung); and 
effacement of perception [scotomization], a fall into the blind spot of 
the retina. 

Disavowal {Verleugnung) retains our attention, first because of its 
special status: it is at once specific (perverse disavowal) and general to 
every neurotic structure, but is also used to describe psychosis (although 
working within another topography). It is consequently this type of 
negation which I feel is coextensive with verbal symbolism (it is 
employed, moreover, by the article on negativity that in particular deals 
with the advent and use of the word): it gives a negative, if not perverse, 
dimension to every verbal usage and, more especially, to every art that 
plays with it, thus exaggerating its effects. 9 

The True-Real 225 

It would seem to consist of a bivalent process concerning the 
recognition of castration: the boy notes the mother's lack of a penis, 
but continues to think that she has one. The first attitude creates fear, 
the second creates fetishes; hence the coexistence of the two. Disavowal 
therefore centres on the 'perceptions which bring to knowledge this 
demand from reality'; 10 but it is a 'half-measure' of detachment from 
reality, none the less accompanied by knowledge. As it represents a 
'conflict between the demand by the instinct and the prohibition by 
reality', it is the very topos of the splitting of the Ego. 11 In such a 
process of symbolization and knowledge, it is our belief that we are 
no longer concerned with the truth but with reality, prohibition, drive, 
demand and the conflict between them which is resolved by disavowal. 
The result is twofold: hallucination (of the penis where it is lacking) 
and displacement (another part of the body or an object is cathected 
with the same drive-related demand). 

If the mechanism is true, the decisive, and no doubt risky, step consists 
in seeing it as coextensive with any symbolic and linguistic function. 
Isn't the enigmatic acquisition of language, which according to some 
fulfils an innate programme, achieved when the child is in fact capable 
of withdrawing cathexis from his imaginary representation of the 
maternal phallus, in order to cathect with at least the same degree of 
intensity that which represents it, and even better, any representative 
instance. It is this process that opens up the chain of signifiers and the 
knowledge of a reality which only now is perceived as such. 

It now remains to push these consequences to their conclusion: the 
fact that disavowal is immanent in the symbolic faculty conditions the 
permanent feeling of loss of reality in the speaking being: 'New elements, 
which may give occasion for defensive measures, approach the ego from 
two directions - from the real external world and from the internal world 
of thoughts and impulses that emerge in the ego. It is possible that this 
alternative concides with the choice between derealizations proper and 
depersonalizations.' 12 Between repression and the 'normal method' of 
defending oneself against what is distressing or unbearable by means 
of recognizing it, considering it, making a judgement upon it, etc., 'there 
he a whole series of more or less clearly pathological methods of 
behaviour on the part of the ego'. 

The area of disavowal ('I know very well but all the same'), the last- 
ditch hope and defence of the Ego, is introduced everywhere by the 
mechanism of language. This seems to dawn on Freud as well, since, 

226 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

when using this notion, he employs it as a synonym of the negativity 
proper to the symbolic function. 13 Is this an improper use of terms, 
or an acknowledgement of the universal nature of the process? The 
various subjective structures ('truths') do differ, however, according 
to the physical topography supported by the term disavowal 
(Verleugnung). 1 * On the death of her sister, the neurotic woman is over- 
come with desire for her brother-in-law, but by disavowing this desire, 
she produces her hysteric symptom. The psychotic would have disavowed 
the very reality of death. 

Thus, we have a choice between disavowing 'historical' reality (the 
only radical one, that of death) which places us in the series of the 
signifier alone (paranoid delirium or its suturing, which is science), or 
disavowing desire (that is, the transference of one signifier to another), 
an action which makes our body into a symptom and/or a fight against 
death. In the first case, we have the 'truth' of the signifier, which 
eventually can be demonstrated (science), but only at the expense of 
disavowing reality; the psychotic and the scientist bear witness (tragically 
for the one, optimistically for the other) to an impossible reality; they 
fail to articulate reality [le reel]. In the second case, we have the truth 
of the symptom, expressed by a suffering body or by a kind of prompted 
language; the latter is always a semblance, plausible but never true, 
and only its accidents (slips, errors of reasoning, etc.) relate it to the 
first case, that is, to the impossibility of 'truth'. 

Neurosis operates through the disavowal of desire and/or of the 
signifier. It is related to reality via a series of rhetorical strategies 
producing plausibility (syntactically normative language, classical 
narrative, etc.): strategies of semblance, that help to construct subjec- 
tive economies of identification and projection, normalized and stabilized 
by the Oedipus complex. The gaps in this system reveal the bodily 
symptom or induce 'psychotic' operations. 

Psychosis proceeds by the disavowal of reality and demands that the 
signifier be real in order to be true. An indefinite combinatoire of signs 
ensues, beyond the conditions of truth specified by science: this decodes 
the expansion of the limits of the Ego and consequently of the percept 
(the object of perception). This is a lexical, syntactic or narrative 
modification, whose operations we have begun to isolate, by analysing 
the discourses and texts collected both here and at La Borde. Consoli's 
study of psychotic negation is very suggestive in this respect. Only the 
suture of scientific discourse can create a space for reality in this 

The True-Real 227 

subjective economy, precisely by defining the conditions of logical truth 
(peculiar to the proposition or sentence) which guarantee the existence 
of this reality. 

I feel more and more that a separate place must be set aside for so- 
called artistic discourse. If there is any disavowal, it is introduced in 
the minutiae of such a practice (in each word, sound, colour, rhythm . . . ) 
such that these are never 'pure signifiers' but always 'word' and 'flesh' 
and consequently situate themselves at the very heart of the distinc- 
tion between these extremes and/or their identity to the extent that they 
are a microscopic exploration of murder as resurrection. 

This presents us with a chiasmus: access to reality is in the register 
of the plausible; access to truth depends on the signifier alone although 
it is achieved at the expense of an eclipse of reality: 

t« u • Signifier T Real^%. Signifier Real XT 
Psychosis: — s -^y-^—s n : Neurosis 

Reality "^Reality; P; (t, f) 

0= foreclosure; T= truth; P= plausible; t, f=true, false; V= versus. 

Religious discourse is formed in the diagonal corridor 'Signifier T Real 
= Reality; P; (t, f)\ Initially postulating the impossible as faith, this 
discourse maintains the existence of the signifier as real but retains the 
dogmatic and rhetorical conditions which produce plausibility and 
truthful demonstration. 

Scientific discourse is situated in the same corridor but, foreclosing 
the subject of enunciation, it merely translates its economy into the laws 
of isolated signs. It misses out on the left-hand side of the diagram. 
Artistic discourse, in the same corridor, eliminates the operator (t, f), 
but succeeds in bestowing plausibility on the signifier and the real in each 
unit and operation in its field: a microscopic expansion of the 'true-real'. 

To see the voice or the hallucinatory weft of hysteria 

In hysterical discourse, truth, when not weighed down by the symptom, 
often assumes the obsessive, unsayable and emotionally charged weft 
of visual representation. Floating in isolation, this vision of an unnamed 
real rejects all nomination and any possible narrative. Instead it remains 
enigmatic, setting the field of speech ablaze only to reduce it to cold 
ashes, fixing in this way an hallucinatory and untouchable jouissance. 

228 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

Without being able to speak of hysterical psychosis (in so far as the 
term means anything) it is none the less necessary to recognize this as 
a banal immersion of hysterical discourse in the structures of psychosis: 
a banality seized upon as a historical provocation in the present 
feminist dissatisfaction with a language reputed to be too abstract and 
incapable of rendering the truth of the body: or to put it bluntly, with 
a language that is phallic. In the hysterical hallucination so current in 
this discourse, we therefore find ourselves in a border zone where the 
real, in order to burst on the scene as truth, leaves a hole in the subject's 
discourse, but is none the less taken up by that very discourse in a 
repetitive representation that produces meaning (thus allowing life and 
jouissance to continue), without creating signification (thus, by producing 
a too flimsy barrier against the symptom, this process opens the door 
to the manic-depressive states). 

My first suggestion is that, in spite of being representations, these 
hallucinations do not have the value of a metaphor (which is always 
a purely linguistic process), but are composite products of language as 
well as of a more archaic register, the scopic, and of the drive that founders 
on the differentiation of the proper body and the recognition of sexual 
difference: namely the anal drive. I shall then attempt to trace the specific 
kind of foreclosure whose existence is implied by this type of hallucina- 
tion: a foreclosure of the name of the Father no doubt, but one that 
operates in a specific relation to the structure as a whole. 15 

In a case history I have come to know, a young woman, J., with an 
ease that was perhaps slightly too spectacular, organized and rationalized 
all her personal and professional activities. Nothing appeared to escape 
her control (apart from a few trivial somatic expressions and bouts of 
melancholy) except for the enigmatic recurrence of an image, a word, 
a sensation that was indefinable but always linked to certain moments 
of great intensity: the recurrence, in fact, of the colour green [vert]. 
Analysis gradually placed this blinding moment that corresponded to 
no object, not even to the word green itself ('it's too simple, too weak, 
it's not that') in a series which could be interpreted once it had been 
elaborated in the transference. The analysts 's first name (Veronica) 
introduced the first name of the paternal sister (Vera), a name which 
J. 's father had wanted her to have, while her dreams revealed the mother 
carrying a green watering-can. Family history re-emerged and reminded 
the patient of their early worries over the baby's (green) stools, a problem 
which was resolved with the birth of J. 's young sister. She then detached 

The True-Real 229 

herself from her mother who was busy with the new baby, and 'flung' 
herself at her father ('there was already a linguistic and intellectual 
affinity'). As a case history, this was all too neat and simple, for the 
female analyst simply had to behave as the Other without actually 
renouncing her sex in order to avoid being dragged into this 'green' 
into which J. would have been delighted to [jouissait de] take her. 

Between the ages of 2 and 3, the young girl experienced her anal 
superiority: having already paid attention to defecation and distinguished 
between faecal matter and her own body, she identified this action with 
the maternal function of giving birth to a new child. This superiority 
brought to a climax her primary narcissism, that is, her imaginary iden- 
tification with her mother, and simultaneously represented an exclusion 
of the father and a defence against the lack of a penis. The acme of 
the specular therefore coincided for her with a strong anal investment 
as a denial [denegation] of sexual difference. This anus was rented out 
to the eye: this accounts for the Chinese wall erected by the hysterical 
woman, a psychotic partition-wall which enables her not to see or know 
[sa-uotr] that the Father exists as Other. Within this enclosure, 'daddy' 
will still be easily reducible to 'mummy'. 

But at the same time the imaginary is lifted into the symbolic: the 
transitional objects can now be signified, and the imaginary is inscribed 
as what it is, a function of the Other, through the sublation of the 
maternal site in the paternal metaphor operated by language. The 
attention paid to signs - images, forms and colours - culminates, through 
a process of abstraction, in the signifying sound that creates language. 
However, this isolation of the symbolic from the imaginary, retraced 
by Lacan in the ideal Oedipal triangle, is never perfect and, in hysterical 
hallucination, remains as fundamentally problematic as the process of 
dissociation of the daddy from the Father. The 'objective' failure of 
daddy (feminization, social depreciation, absence, etc.) is merely grist 
to this mill that turns on structure. 

A signifier, then, by combining index 2) with index A, can bring about 
not the gap [ecart] separating the imaginary and symbolic axes in order 
to ensure a normal perception of the real, but rather their meeting: an 
encounter in which the maternal (specular-anal) instance clings for a 
timeless moment to the paternal (vocal-phallic) instance. Such a signifier 
uses the gifts of language to target both sides, and is consequently a 
hallucinatory signifier: Green [Vert]. Green of faeces, green of fields, 
the close comfort of mummy, walks with daddy; the verdure of the 


Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

anal serpent, and the proper name of the paternal sister. Non-object 
and sublimation. This vocal signifier often designates the visible for 
the girl as well as for the boy, devoted as they both are to their mother 
in a prolonged state of specularization. The paternal voice names, but 
without transforming anything into a sign; it names by flinging itself 
wide open to the semiotic material that creates a pre-object which carries 
a foreseeable jouissance. 

This heterogeneous semiotic encounter (sound/vision, pre-object/sign) 
is a hallucination that marks the insistence of the true-real, an archaic and 
salutary attempt to elaborate the irruption of the real that leaves a hole 
in the symbolical weft of hysterical discourse. This hallucination recurs 
periodically, in order to indicate, like an icon, an unutterable jouissance 
that endangers the symbolic resources of the speaking being. 16 The 
hallucinatory icon, which becomes obsessive by virtue of its repetition, 
challenges what may be structured as a language: it obliterates reality 
and makes the real loom forth as a jubilant enigma. But, since this 
hallucinatory icon is neither a (psychotic) hole in which the subject might 
be lost, nor a phobic object that might bring him an anguish as fatal 
as it is indispensable to his pleasure, it has a double function: 

1 It emerges when the question of the lack of distinction between 
father and mother crops up again, and stresses the fact that it is from 
this lack of distinction that the hysteric experiences jouissance. Or rather 
from the confusion of sexes which she represents. For it is in this locus 
that an effect of subject is produced for the hysteric, an effect which 
she therefore attains only periodically, and at the expense of an hallucina- 
tion. This recurrence of the *true-reaT is represented by those points 
where the sinusoid of the imaginary cuts through the straight line of 
the symbolic, and remodels the 'normal* tripod of the imaginary, the 
symbolic and the real: see figure l. 17 

Figure 1 

The True-Real 231 

2 It indicates that the Other (like the phallus) as a third term of 
subjective structure is a universal for the hysteric, but one which can 
only be included in his or her / by being particularized: that is, it can 
only be postulated by being reduced to that particular point at which / 
encompasses father/mother, male/female, voice/sight. The Other exists, 
says the hysterical hallucination, as the site of a pure signifier, if, and 
only if, He speaks to me via a pre-object. The hallucination recognizes 
the Other only if the father acts as a mother, and vice versa; this is 
the vice or, if you like, the condition that allows Him to be revealed. 
Without this revelation, there is no obvious Other for the hysteric, and 
the denegation of the symbolic reaches its apogee in the psychosomatic 
symptom. In this sense, hallucination is an artistic elaboration by which 
a semiotic condensation protects the body from illness. 

Symptom e, on the other hand, wishes to fill with the flesh the gap 
[beance] between the two axes (imaginary/symbolic, maternal/paternal), 
when these axes are separated due to the absence of any signifier that 
might lead them to cross (as in the case of the hallucinatory icon) or 
to enter into a triangular relationship (as in the classic Oedipal solution): 
see figure 2. 



Figure 2 

This revelation (that a signifier gives symbolic existence to an archaic 
jouissance not yet cathected to any object), this predilection for vision 
as a method of sublimation - not as in scoptophilia but, on the contrary, 
as in painting - guarantees the insistance of the Other in the structure 
of hysteria. A hysteric, whether male or female, can be devout, provided 
that God is visible in painting. But this addiction to the visible is merely 
one more indication of the impasse in which his or her desire finds itself 
with regard to the other sex. 

The icon of sight and speech returns in the form of 'mania': a mania 
for cleanliness, tidiness, buying, punctuality. Every 'pointillist' or 
'tachist' working-out of an anality that can no longer be seen is drifting, 
not towards obsessionality, but towards a manic symptomatology: the 

232 Women, Psychoanalysis , Politics 

failure of the subject faced with the 'pure' signifier. It is a desire, then, 
for iconicity, which, in extreme cases, is lost in a gaze that has no object: 
a blinding field of colour and light. 

Let us now turn from the hysteric icon and try to put into linguistic 
terms this inscription of the real in the symbolic that is postulated for 
the subject by a verifiable reality. 

Two examples of passages between enunciative spaces 


Demonstratives (this, that, this one, that one) mark the passage of 
discourse within the system of language: they are essentially defined 
by the use to which they are put by the subject of enunciation. If it 
is true that they have a referent, it is equally the case that they refer 
to a sign other than themselves: they are metalinguistic and self- 
referential. Through the use of the many forms of enunciation which 
this linguistic category possesses, the subject can straddle several enun- 
ciative spaces. This explains the impact of demonstratives in those 
discourses where the identity of the speaking subject is in question. 

In infantile discourse, one notes not only a statistical preponderance 
of demonstratives ('That's X') prior to their eclipse by the personal 
pronoun, but above all the contiguity (both spatial and chronological) 
between the demonstratives and the evocation of the mother or her 
proper name. The subjective economy underlying the infantile enuncia- 
tion of demonstratives recalls Winnicott's 'potential space': there is as 
yet no clear distinction between subject and object. 

In psychotic discourse, when the patient is presented with an image, 
the use of 'this' or 'that' to refer to the same sort of representation varies 
widely. 'That's me', 'that's a violinist', 'that's a man'. The 'same' 
imaged referent, introduced into discourse by the 'same' that, gives rise 
to several different positions for the subject of enunciation and creates 
several different narratives. This 'delirium', however, is merely the 
realization of the semantic qualities latent in the demonstrative as such, 
a series of latent possibilities not realized in normal or neurotic discourse. 
Having denied the latent elements in the signifier, the latter attributes 
plausibility to a reality (referent), while psychotic discourse forecloses 
reality and explores the 'truth' (that can be called 'historical', but equally 
'linguistic' or 'scientific') of the signifier, notably the potential ability 

The True-Real 233 

of the demonstrative to place the subject of enunciation in several 
enunciative spaces. 

This capacity of demonstratives to embrace several enunciative 
spaces has been commented on by Arnauld and Nicole, when con- 
sidering a use of demonstratives that is famous for not being normative: 
the words of Christ ('This is my body') where this designates both 
the bread and the body of Christ. The logicians of Port- Royal, true 
followers of the Cartesian subject, can rationalize the passage from 
one to the other identity (from bread to body) within the same 
this only through the use of a double justification. They double the 
demonstrative's space of enunciation by explaining: (a) that it marks 
'the confused idea of the present thing'; and (b) that it none the less 
permits the mind to add ideas that are 'inspired by circumstance'. 18 
However, since the Port-Royal Logic does not have a plural, or at 
all events dynamic, conception of the subject of enunciation, it cannot 
explain the identity of the subject who can assume these remarkably 
different 'ideas which are inspired by circumstance', to the point of 
designating the 'same' present thing, that is now 'bread', now 'my 
body'. Port-Royal therefore has recourse to time: now this is bread, then 
this is my body. Reason is saved at the expense of an obsessive use of 
time that consequently deletes the mystery of transubstantiation. Might 
transubstantiation then be an indelible thematization of the fold \pli\ 
to be found between two spaces (the real space of need, nutrition and 
survival: bread; and the symbolic space of designation: the signifying 
body itself)? Such a fold would then be produced in the archaeology 
of demonstratives (the archaic designation of the mother, the breaking- 
off of our need for her), as well as in every experience that is at 
the limits of corporeal identity, that is, an identity of meaning and 

Certain religious themes (such as transubstantiation) were no doubt 
social ways of calling into play the enunciative true-real of language (to 
which, in a more marginalized way, psychosis bears witness). The 
gradual decline 0/ these religious themes left the task of revealing the 
enunciative true-real proper to language to a literature without such close 
ties with the community. Beckett's How It Is [Comment c'est] is a trans- 
substantiation acting in reverse: no longer from food to body, but from 
body to refuse. As such it still employs the same demonstrative [c'est], 
engaging discourse in the form of elliptical sentences and mini-narratives 
(a paragraph, three to four lines), and 'inspiring', around the same 

234 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

'present thing', the permanent fluctuation in speech between a subject 
/, and an I-object/I-refuse, an / referring to objects. . . 

Proper names 

Proper names have been compared to demonstratives. For John Stuart 
Mill, proper names are 'meaningless' (meaning being for him a conno- 
tation that implies an attribute). The proper name would then designate 
a referent by a signifier, but it would have no signified. Does this mean 
that it has only signifiance or, in other words, that it is a potential space 
for the process of signifiance? At all events, a proper name is identified 
not through intellect but through the senses. 19 For Bertrand Russell, 
proper names are abbreviations of descriptions; they describe not particu- 
lars but systems of particulars, classes or series. 20 Are they, in fact, then 
the least 'proper' and *individualizing' of names? Russell also compares 
proper names to demonstratives: as this one, the proper name does not 
designate the same thing for two interlocutors, or at two different 
moments. Russell therefore has recourse to the subject of enunciation 
in order to establish the meaning of the proper name. This logical 
embarrassment is confirmed by Gardiner: 'the operative power of proper 
names is reflected in, and facilitated by, our recognition of them as such'; 
'the purely logical view of words is [thus] seriously at fault' (my 
emphasis). Wittgenstein is even more suggestive: 

Consider this example. If one says 'Moses did not exist', this may 
mean various things. It may mean: the Israelites did not have a 
single leader when they withdrew from Egypt - or: their leader 
was not called Moses - or: there cannot have been anyone who 
accomplished all that the Bible relates of Moses - or: etc. etc. - 
. . . But when I make a statement about Moses, - am I always ready 
to substitute some one of these descriptions for 'Moses'? I shall 
perhaps say: By 'Moses' I understand the man who did what the 
Bible relates of Moses, or any any rate a good deal of it. But how 
much? Have I decided how much must be proved false for me 
to give up my proposition as false? Has the name 'Moses' got a 
fixed and unequivocal use for me in all possible cases? 21 

If the truth or falseness of proper names is problematic, one can speak 
of their necessity, but for whom? 

The True-Real 235 

From a fairly naive point of view, Freud's book on Moses is a reply 
to this concern over the logical truth of proper names. It shows the 
logicians that any fabulation around a name (as is the case with the great 
religions) is articulated around a name whose 'historical truth' is 
undecidable, revealing only the fact that the feature peculiar to every 
proper name is that it does not have an 'historical truth'. It also shows 
that the proper name gives rise to fiction as the permanent separation 
of language from itself. The only basic truth of the name would then 
be the one we would approach if the speaking being were willing to 
face up to the most fundamental separation of all: the murder (of the 
Father) as the basic condition of the symbolic function. For the Jews, 
isn't baptism a split [coupure] which the Christians simply bring about 
more discretely, by placing its origins in language (in the sign itself)? 

The proper name therefore surfaces as an indeterminate elaboration 
on the separation of a particular sign from the general set of signs, but 
also of a signifier from its signified and its referent. Logic sutures this 
indeterminacy by presenting the meaning of the proper name as a family 
of definitions (the name Moses then 'means' all the possible definitions 
that the circumstances and the protagonists of discourse can give it). 
By using it as a starting-point for a narrative, literature bestows 
plausibility upon it. 

The psychotic, lacking any religious or artistic code with which to 
produce plausibility, once again calls into play the latent enunciative 
truth of the proper name. When souls invade Shreber's body and, in 
a move bordering on emasculation, render it voluptuous and female, 
he sees himself filled with other 'nerves of individual destiny', the 
'blackened nerves' of other 'dead men', who are just so many proper 
names: Bernard Haase, bad boy and murderer; R., traveller and rake; 
Julius Ernile Haase, a wise and respectable man. 22 And one does not 
have to look too far to see that the numerous Rs are inscribed in 
'Schreber' and that these Haase characters bear the maiden name of 
Schreber's own mother, Pauline Haase. 

In this way the fragility of the proper name when it comes to fixing 
a signified identity is shown first of all in the multiplication of proper 
names. This explosion of identity ultimately confronts that same un- 
nameable space of need which I have called semiotic and which is also 
bordered by the demonstrative - the site of the archaic mother. Beneath 
the plausibility of Schreber's narrative lies the 'core' of a truth: the 
enunciative archaeology of the proper name as a strategy of discourse. 

236 Womeriy Psychoanalysis, Politics 

By virtue of his own specific structure (that makes him express the truth 
of the signifier as a mourning for an impossible real) the psychotic makes 
explicit this necessity which is repressed in normal verbal communica- 
tion. Benveniste said that Artaud was the greatest French linguist. 

To be sure: such a practice of truth cannot be carried out with 
impunity. Since the signifier is the (sole) truth, it is the body and vice 
versa. In this economy, there are no images or semblances (any more 
than in the Eucharist): each element is neither real, nor symbolic, nor 
imaginary, but true. Thus the truth of the signifier, namely its separa- 
bility, otherness, death, can be seen to be exerted on the flesh itself 
- as on words. The mutilation of the hands of a female painter is perhaps 
no more or less painful than the displacement of the language she writes 
or draws. In a man, Artaud, the fundamental sign/body of enunciative 
truth can only be castration. In Artaud's texts, Abelard and Heliogabalus 
are perhaps not mere fantasies, but rather the necessary culmination 
of the process of 'true' writing. That this is so is corroborated by the 
jouissance of the text describing these bodies, these moments of 

Who can prevent this jouissance, this truth, and replace it with the 
plausibility of reasonable discourse? Here medicine and psychoanalysis 
encounter the old weapon, the proven balm for use against this sort 
of wound: religion. The latter is a discourse that creates plausibility 
through fictional devices (projection, introjection, characters, etc.), and 
economizes on the signifier as truth and/or as death: castration, and 
rejection or refuse. And apart from these solutions? There still remains 
that language-practice in which the true is the beautiful. But can one 
learn to write? And anyway, who can write alone? The mystery remains, 
but today its backdrop is a void. 


1 See my 'Object or complement' in Polylogue (Paris: Seuil, 1977), pp. 225-62. 

2 I shall not repeat here what I have written elsewhere of the plausible. See 'Meaning 
and fashion' and 'The productivity called text', in SSmeiotike (Paris: Seuil, 1969), 
pp. 60-89 and pp. 208-45 respectively. 

3 G. W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind, tr. J. B. Baillie (London: Allen & 
Unwin, 1966), p. 105. My emphasis. 

4 I have tackled the undecidable nature of the reference in literary discourse in 'Poetry 
and negativity', in Semeiotiki, pp. 246-77. One question: what is the status of 
reference in psychotic discourse? 

The True-Real 237 

5 S. Freud, Moses and Monotheism, Standard Edition, vol. XXIII (London: Hogarth 
Press, 1964), p. 129. 

6 Loc. cit. See the article by Louis Beirnaert, ' Moses and Monotheism in reply to the 
Nazi persecutions', SIC, Materiaux pour la psychanalyse, 6 (Sept. 1976), pp. 14-20. 

7 Ibid., p. 85. 

8 Ibid., p. 130. 

9 S. Freud, 'Negation', Standard Edition, vol. XIX (London: Hogarth Press, 1961), 
p. 235. 

10 S. Freud, An Outline of Psycho-Analysis, Standard Edition, vol. XXIII (London: 

Hogarth Press, 1964), p. 204. 
US. Freud, 'The splitting of the ego in the process of defence', Standard Edition, 

vol. XXIII (London: Hogarth Press, 1964), pp. 275ff. 

12 S. Freud, 'A disturbance of memory on the Acropolis', Standard Edition, vol. XXII 
(London: Hogarth Press, 1964), p. 245. 

13 S. Freud, 'The loss of reality in neurosis and psychosis', Standard Edition, vol. 
XIX (London: Hogarth Press, 1961), pp. 184-5. 

14 Loc. cit. 

15 On the subject of hallucination, see the work of W. R. Bion and, in particular, 
Attention and Interpretation (London: Tavistock, 1970). My semiotk/symbolic distinc- 
tion, as well as the semiological referral of hallucination to the icon, may be read 
as a clarification of the famous point O and its transformations. 

16 In the sense in which it is used by C. S. Peirce, who contrasts it with 'index' and 

17 The figure on the left is taken from Jacques Lacan, 'On a question preliminary 
to any possible treatment of psychosis', in Ecrits. A selection, tr. Alan Sheridan 
(London: Tavistock, 1977), p. 197. 

18 Arnauld and Nicole, La Logique, ou Van de penser (Paris: Presses Universitaires 
de France, 1965), p. 101. 

19 According to A. H. Gardiner, Theory of Proper Names (London: Oxford University 
Press (Humphrey Milford), 1940), pp. 64-5. 

20 B. Russell, 'The philosophy of logical Atomism', The Monist, 1918. 

21 L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (Oxford: Blackwell, 1958), p. 79. 

22 D. P. Schreber, Denkwurdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken (Leipzig: Oswald Mutze, 
1903) {Memorabilia of a Nerve Patient, tr. I. Macalpine and R. A. Hunter, London: 
William Dawson, 1953). 

Translated by Sean Hand 


Freud and Love: 
Treatment and Its Discontents 

A rewritten and expanded version of an earlier essay entitled 'L'abjet d'amour' 
(Tel Quel, 91 (Spring 1982), pp. 17-32), 'Freud and Love' was published as 
the first part of Kristeva's Histoires d'amour (Paris: DenoSl, 1983, pp. 27-58). 
This translation is taken from the forthcoming American edition of Histoires 
d'amour, to be published by Columbia University Press. In many ways, the 
central project of Histoires d'amour is to present psychoanalytical discourse as 
a discourse of love (as opposed to desire), one that situates itself in the space 
previously filled by religion. This, I believe, is why Kristeva not only presents 
this fascinating book as the archaeology of love in the Western world, but pays 
particular attention to love in its Catholic elaborations (through analysis of 
the discourse of mystics, saints and theologians). In an accessible and highly 
readable essay published as a separate pamphlet in 1985 (Au commencement 
etait I 'amour: psyckanalyse et foi, Paris: Hachette), Kristeva returns to the 
question of the relationship between psychoanalytic theory and practice and 
Catholic theology and symbolism. 

In 'Freud and Love', Kristeva presupposes a certain knowledge of the 
concept of the abject as developed in her Powers of Horror (Paris: Seuil, 1980; 
tr. Leon S. Roudiez, New York: Columbia University Press, 1982). Neither 
subject nor object, the 'abject' may be defined as a kind of 'pre-object' or, 
perhaps, as a fallen object. Although situated in the Imaginary, it precedes 
and in no way coincides with the Imaginary Other of the mirror stage. The 
abject, then, represents the first effort of the future subject to separate itself 
from the pre-Oedipal mother. Nausea, distaste, horror: these are the signs 
of a radical revulsion (or expulsion) which serves to situate the T, or more 
accurately to create a first, fragile sense of T in a space where before there 
was only emptiness. The abject does not fill the void of the 'pre-subject', it 
simply throws up a fragile boundary wall around it. In this sense the abject 
(the 'object' of revulsion) is more a process than a 'thing'. Stressing the fact 
that the abject is not per se linked to dirt or putrefaction, Kristeva insists that 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 239 

it can be represented by any kind of transgressive, ambiguous or intermediary 

Abjecting the archaic mother, the child tentatively creates its first separate 
space. This space, however, remains empty: it is simply a screen hiding 
nothing, an emptiness always present in patients usually called 'borderline 
cases', that is to say, patients whose problems are situated on the frontier 
between neurosis and psychosis, and perhaps more specifically, those whose 
apparently neurotic symptoms serve to mask a latent form of psychosis. In 
Kristeva's case histories at the end of this essay, these patients emerge as 
marked by a peculiarly 'post-modern' relationship to language and the sacred. 
For these patients nothing is taboo because nothing seems to be meaningful: 
all their utterances lack depth, and their stream of words, far from repressing 
anything simply seem to be masking a void. For Kristeva, such patients, like 
other psychotics, have foreclosed the Name of the Father (see also 'The True- 
Real'), but in their case, it is not so much a question of foreclosing the paternal 
signifier in its Oedipal and symbolic guise, as an earlier, paternal, pre-object, 
which Kristeva, quoting Freud, labels the 'father of individual prehistory'. 

According to 'Freud and Love', this 'father of individual prehistory' 
designates an archaic disposition of the paternal function, which must intervene 
in the child's original auto-eroticism in order to produce primary narcissism, 
the stage which in its turn provides the necessary grounding of the mirror 
stage, and thus for the subsequent development of the Ego. Situating this 
intervention at about four months, Kristeva argues that it is only the hypothesis 
of such a triangulating instance (the 'archaic father') which can explain the 
shift from the paranoid to the depressive position described by Melanie Klein. 

The 'father of individual prehistory' serves as an instance of identification 
for the child. Given that the child at this early stage relates exclusively to the 
mother, what happens is that he or she in fact identifies with the pre-Oedipal 
mother's desire for the phallus. The point stressed by Kristeva is that the 
triangulation necessary for the development of primary narcissism will not take 
place if the child is the mother's sole object of desire: in that case the child 
risks precisely developing into one of the 'borderline cases' described at the 
end of this essay. 

The child's relationship with this early paternal instance is not one of desire 
(Eros), which, according to Lacan, is metonymical displacement, but one of love 
(Agape), which Kristeva here defines as a metaphorical identification. For 
Kristeva, transference and counter-transference in analysis is love in this sense, 
a love that repeats or reinforces the child's relationship with the 'father of 
personal prehistory'. 

240 Women, Psychoanalysis , Politics 

Freud and Love: 
Treatment and Its Discontents 

In his journey through the land of love Freud reaches Narcissus only 
after having travelled over the dissociated space of hysteria. The latter 
leads him to establish the 'psychic space' that he will explode, first 
through Narcissus and finally through the death drive, into the impossible 
spaces of 'lovehate', 1 that is, infinite transference. 

Narcissism - a screen for emptiness 

The hypothesis of Narcissus is crucial to this Freudian course. Before 
calling itself 'death', the libido undergoes a first threat to its omnipotence 
- one that makes the existence of an other for the self appear problematic. 
Freud seems to suggest that it is not Eros but narcissistic primacy that 
sparks and perhaps dominates psychic life; he thus sets up fancy at the 
basis of one's relationship to reality. Such a perpetuance of illusion, 
however, finds itself rehabilitated, neutralized, normalized, at the bosom 
of my loving reality. For Freud, as we know, binds the state of loving 
to narcissism; the choice of the love object, be it 'narcissistic' or 
'anaclitic', proves satisfying in any case if and only if that object relates 
to the subject's narcissism in one of two ways: either through personal 
narcissistic reward (where Narcissus is the subject), or there is narcissistic 
delegation (Narcissus is the other; for Freud, the woman). A narcissistic 
destiny would in some way underlie all our object choices, but this is 
a destiny that society on the one hand, and the moral rigour of Freud 
on the other, tend to thrust aside in favour of a 'true' object choice. 2 
And yet on closer examination even the Ego Ideal, which ensures the 
transference of our claims and desires toward a true object laden with 
all the pomp of good and beauty as defined by parental and social codes, 
is a revival of narcissism, its abeyance, its conciliation, its consolation. 
Freud's text, one might say, imposes an omnipresence of narcissism, 
which permeates the other realms, to the point that one finds it again 
in the object (where it is reflected) - if we assume that an object can 
be designated, in other words symbolized and loved as such, outside 
of chaos, rejection and destruction. 
Moreover, the ubiquity of the notion of 'narcissism' goes hand in 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 241 

hand with its being far from originary . It is an accrual, and Freud points 
out that it is the product of a 'new action', which we should understand as 
that of a third realm supplementing the auto-eroticism of the mother-child 
dyad: 'Die autoerotischen Triebe sind aber uhrfanglich; es muss also irgend 
etwas zum Autoerotisms hinzukommen, eine neue psychische Aktion, urn 
den Narzissmus zu gestalten. ' 'The auto-erotic drives, however, are there 
from the very first; so there must be something added to auto-eroticism 
- a new physical action - in order to bring about narcissism.' 3 

That observation endows narcissism with an intra-symbolic status, 
dependent upon a third party, but within a disposition that chrono- 
logically and logically precedes that of the Oedipal Ego. It prompts one 
to conceive of an archaic disposition of the paternal function, preceding 
the Name, the symbolic, but also the 'mirror stage' whose logical poten- 
tiality it would harbour - a disposition that one might call that of the 
imaginary father (a point I shall return to). Lacan takes up Freud's 
observation only briefly to emphasize the need to stipulate the 'mirror 
stage'. He specifies that 'The human ego establishes itself on the basis 
of the imaginary relation'. 4 

The question prompted by the Freudian notion of narcissism would 
then be the following: what is this narcissistic 'identity'? How stable 
are its borders, its relation to the other? Does the 'mirror stage' emerge 
out of nowhere? What are the conditions of its emergence? A whole 
complex structuration can seemingly be conceived through what is after 
all a psychiatric term, 'narcissism'; it is an already ternary structura- 
tion with a different articulation than the Ego-object- Other triangle 
that is put together in the shadow of the Oedipus complex. 

Furthermore, the ubiquity of Freudian narcissism has caused some 
to suggest that narcissism is no more than a Freudian fantasy - and 
that nothing else exists but originary mimetism. Such a thesis is probably 
a paranoid version of what would lie at the basis of social and symbolic 
relations: its finds its mechanism in the 'scapegoat' theory, where 
Melanie Klein's 'projective relationship* unwittingly serves as corner- 
stone for society and the sacred. Nevertheless, it is still a fact that 
narcissism, caught in a play of rebounds within the Freudian text, in 
a first stage seems to be a mimetic play that would establish psychic 
identities (Ego/object), until that play finally, and in the dizziness of 
rebounds, reveals itself as a screen over emptiness. That notion has been 
developed in psychoanalysis by Andre Green, whose reflections I draw 
upon for this particular point. 5 

242 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

Consequently I shall emphasize this notion of emptiness, which is 
at the root of the human psyche. It does not reveal itself merely because 
'psychotic states' have broken forth on psychoanalytic couches or have 
shown through the low points of many neuroses. One is compelled to 
note that the aims of psychoanalysis have changed. After psychiatric 
semiology, Freud had discovered the symptom as metaphor, that is, 
condensation, of fantasy. Now, and thanks to Lacan, one analyses 
the symptom as a screen through which one detects the workings of 
signifiance (the process of formation and de-formation of meaning and 
the subject); these coextend with the speaking being as such and, con- 
sequently, they cut through not only 'normal' and 'pathological' states 
but also psychoanalytic symptomatology. In this respect, the arbitrari- 
ness of the Saussurian sign has placed us in front of a bar, or even an 
emptiness, that constitutes the referent/signified/signifier relationship, 
of which Lacan has merely taken up the 'visible' aspect in the gaping 
hole of the mirror stage. Saussure's arbitrariness of the sign and Lacan's 
gaping hole both readily point to what might be understood from the 
standpoint of representation - given the uneasy uncertainty, ubiquity 
and inconsistency of 'narcissism' in Freud. . . 

Thus, against the background of linguistic theory and language 
learning, the emptiness that is intrinsic to the beginnings of the symbolic 
function appears as the first separation between what is not yet an Ego 
and what is not yet an object . Might narcissism be a means for protecting 
that emptiness? But against what? - A protection of emptiness (of 
'arbitrariness', of the 'gaping hole') through the display of a decidedly 
narcissistic parry, so that emptiness can be maintained, lest chaos prevail 
and borders dissolve. Narcissism protects emptiness, causes it to exist 
and thus, as lining of that emptiness, ensures an elementary separation. 
Without that solidarity between emptiness and narcissism, chaos would 
sweep away any possibility of distinction, trace and symbolization, which 
would in turn confuse the limits of the body, words, the real and the 
symbolic. The child, with all due respect to Lacan, not only needs the 
real and the symbolic - it signifies itself as child, in other words as the 
subject that it is, and neither as a psychotic nor as an adult, precisely 
in that zone where emptiness and narcissism, the one upholding the other, 
constitute the zero degree of imagination. 

We have, however, reached the threshold of another question: what 
is it that preserves this emptiness - cause for complaint but also absolute 
necessity of so-called narcissistic structures, fleeting effect of enigmatic 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 243 

as well as creative non- sense - at the heart of childhood narcissism? 
This is where we need to return to the notion of 'identification'. 

Einftihlung - an identification with a metaphorical 'object* 

Amatory identification, Einftihlung (the assimilation of other people's 
feelings), appears to be madness when seen in the light of Freud's caustic 
lucidity: the ferment of collective hysteria in which crowds abdicate 
their own judgement, a hypnosis that causes us to lose perception of 
reality since we hand it over to the Ego Ideal. 6 The object in hypnosis 
devours or absorbs the Ego, the voice of consciousness becomes blurred, 
'in loving blindness one becomes a criminal without remorse' - the object 
has taken the place of what was the Ego Ideal. 7 

The identification that provides the support for the hypnotic state 
known as loving madness rests upon a strange object. This archaic 
identification, which is characteristic of the oral phase of the libido's 
organization where what I incorporate is what I become, where having 
amounts to being, is not, truly speaking, objectal. I identify, not with 
an object, but with what offers itself to me as a model. That enigmatic 
apprehending of a pattern to be imitated, one that is not yet an object 
to be libidinally cathected, leads us to wonder whether the loving state 
is a state without object and reminds us of an archaic reduplication (rather 
than imitation), 'possible before any choice of object'. 8 This 
enigmatic, non-objectal identification might be related to the internal, 
recursive, redundant logic of discourse, which is accessible within the 
'after-speech'; it is an identification that sets up love, the sign and repeti- 
tion at the heart of the psyche. For the sake of an object to come, later 
or never?. . .It does not matter, since I am already in the throes of 
Einftihlung. . . Later I shall examine the conditions that allow the advent 
of that unification, that identification, on the basis of auto-eroticism 
and within the pre-Oedipal triad . . . 

For the moment let me simply note that becoming as the One is 
imagined by Freud as an oral assimilation; indeed he links the possibility 
of archaic identification to the 'oral phase of the libido's organization', 9 
and he then cites Robertson Smith who, in his Kinship and Marriage 
(1885), describes the communal bonds set up through participation in 
a common meal as resting upon 'the acknowledgement of the possession 
of a common substance'. 10 Ferenczi and his followers would later 
develop the notions of introjection and incorporation. 

244 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

Nevertheless, one might well wonder about the notional slippage that 
takes place between the 'incorporation' of an object, or even its 'intro- 
jection', and an Identifizierung that is not on the level of 'having' but 
locates itself at once on that of 'being-like'. On what ground, within 
what material does having switch over to being} - While seeking an 
answer to that question it appeared to me that incorporating and intro- 
jecting orality's function is the essential substratum of what constitutes 
man's being, namely language. When the object that I incorporate is 
the speech of the other - precisely a non-object, a pattern, a model - 
I bind myself to him in a primary fusion, communion, unification. An 
identification. For me to have been capable of such a process, my libido 
had to be restrained; my thirst to devour had to be deferred and displaced 
to a level one may well call 'psychic', provided one adds that if there 
is repression it is quite primal, and that it lets one hold on to the joys 
of chewing, swallowing, nourishing oneself. . .with words. In being able 
to receive the other's words, to assimilate, repeat and reproduce them, 
I become like him: One. A subject of enunciation. Through psychic 
osmosis/identification. Through love. 

Freud has described the One with whom I fulfil the identification 
(this 'most primitive aspect of affective binding to an object' 11 ) as a 
father. Although he did not elaborate what he meant by 'primary iden- 
tification', he made it clear that this father is a 'father of individual 

An 'immediate' and objectless identification 

A strange father if there ever was one, since for Freud, because there 
is no awareness of sexual difference during that period (more accurately: 
within that disposition), such a 'father' is the same as 'both parents'. 
Identification with that 'father of prehistory', that imaginary father, 
is called 'immediate', 'direct', and Freud emphasizes again, 'previous 
to any concentration on any object whatsoever': 'Diese scheint zundchst 
nicht Erfolg oder Ausgang einer Objektbesetzung zu sein, sie ist eine direkte 
und unmittelbare und firuhzeitiger ah jede Objektbesetzung. ' Only with 
secondary identification does the 'libidinal covetousness that is part 
of the first sexual period and is directed towards the father and the 
mother appear, in normal instances, to be resolved in a secondary, 
mediate identification that would come and reinforce the primary, direct 
identification'. 12 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 245 

The whole symbolic matrix sheltering emptiness is thus set in place 
in an elaboration that precedes the Oedipus complex. Indeed, if the 
primary identification constitutive of the Ego Ideal does not involve 
libidinal cathexis, drives are dissociated from the psychic realm. 
Simultaneously, what one can only call the absolute existence of 
transference is established, a transference laden with libido. It is a 
transference rather than an 'identification', a transference in the sense 
of Verschiebung, a displacement, as in Tke Interpretation of Dreams, but 
also and at the same time in the sense of Ubertragung, as it will show 
up during treatment and be directed towards the person of the analyst. 
Finally, such a transference is called immediate (unmittelbare) and works 
in the direction of a complex, composite and, in short, imaginary realm 
('the father of individual prehistory'). 

We know that, empirically, the first affections, the first imitations and 
the first vocalizations as well are directed towards the mother; it is thus 
hardly necessary to stress that one's pointing to the father as the magnet 
for primary love, primary identification, is tenable only if one conceives 
of identification as being always already within the symbolic orbit, under 
the sway of language. Such appears to be, implicitly, the Freudian 
position, which owes its acuity as much to Freud's sensitivity concerning 
the dominant place of language in the constitution of being as it does 
to the resurgence of monotheism in his thought. But is there really a 

On the contrary, there is Melanie Klein's well-known position, which 
must be called inexpressible and closer to ordinary common sense. The 
bold theoretician of the death drive is also a theoretician of gratitude 
seen as 'an important offshoot of the capacity for love', 'necessary for 
the acknowledgement of what is "good" in others and in oneself. 13 
Where does this capacity come from? It is innate and leads to the 
experience of a 'good breast' that states the child's hunger; it is also 
apt to convey the feeling of a plenitude that would be the prototype 
of all subsequent experience of jouissance and happiness. Melanie Klein's 
gratitude is nevertheless and at the same time directed towards the 
maternal object in its entirety: T am not saying that for the child the 
breast simply represents a physical object.' 14 

Yet, along with such innateness, Melanie Klein maintains that the 
capacity for love is not an activity of the organism (as it would seem 
to be, according to Klein, for Freud) but rather that it is a 'primordial 
activity of the ego'. Gratitude would stem from a necessity to confront 

246 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

the forces of death and consist in a 'progressive integration born out of 
life drive'. 15 Without being identical with the 'good object', the 
idealized object reinforces it. 'Idealization stems from persecution anguish 
and constitutes a defence against it', 'the ideal breast is a complement of 
the devouring breast'. 16 It is as if those who are unable to set up a 'good 
breast' for themselves naturally manage it by idealizing; now idealization 
often collapses and reveals its cause, which is the persecution against which 
it had established itself. But how does one succeed in idealizing? By what 
miracle is that possible in a Kleinian life where two live without a third 
party other than a persecuting or fascinating penis? 

The problem is not to find an answer to the enigma: who might be 
the object of primary identification, daddy or mummy? Such an attempt 
would only open up the impossible quest for the absolute origin of the 
capacity for love as a psychic and symbolic capacity. The question is 
rather: of what value would the question be when it actually bears on 
states existing on the border between the psychic and the somatic, 
idealization and eroticism, within analytic treatment itself? To emphasize 
transference, the love that founds the analytic process, implies that one 
hears the discourse that is performed there starting with that limit of 
advent-and-loss of the subject - which is Einfuhlung. 

Provided one does not forget that in analysis any discourse complies 
with the dynamics of identification, with and beyond resistances, this 
entails at least two consequences for interpretation. First, the analyst 
situates himself on a ridge where, on the one hand, the 'maternal' 
position - gratifying needs, 'holding' (Winnicott) - and on the other 
the 'paternal' position - the differentiation, distance and prohibition 
that produces both meaning and absurdity - are intermingled and 
severed, infinitely and without end. Analytic tactfulness - ultimate 
refuge of an interpretation's relevance - is perhaps no more than the 
capacity to make use of identification and along with it the imaginal 
resources of the analyst, in order to accompany the patient as far as 
the limits and accidents of his object relations. This ability is even more 
important precisely when the patient has difficulty in establishing, or 
fails to establish, an object relation. 

Metonymic object and metaphorical object 

Secondly, the Einfuhlung gives the language signifier exchanged during 
treatment a heterogeneous, drive-affected dimension. It loads it with 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 247 

something pre-verbal, or even non-representable that needs to be 
deciphered while taking into account the more precise articulations of 
discourse (style, grammar, phonetics), and at the same time while cutting 
through language, in the direction of the unspeakable, indicated by 
fantasies and 'insight' narratives as well as by symptomatic misspeech 
(slips of the tongue, illogical statements, etc.). 

Such analytic attentiveness to Einfiihlung through transference speech 
imposes another status of the psychic object on the analyst's attention, 
one that is different from the metonymic object of desire called 'object 
"a" by Lacan. 17 

We are dealing less with a partial object than with a non-object. As 
magnet of identification constitutive of identity and condition for that 
unification, which ensures the advent of a subject for an object, the 
'object' of Einfiihlung is a metaphorical object. Carrying auto-erotic 
motility to the unifying image of One Agency that already sets me up 
as an opposite One is the zero degree of subjectivity. Metaphor should 
be understood as movement towards the discernible, a journey towards 
the visible. Anaphora, gesture, indication would probably be more 
adequate terms for this sundered unity, in the process of being set up, 
which I am presently conjuring. Aristotle refers to an epiphora: a generic 
term for the metaphorical motility previous to any objectivation of a 
figurative meaning. . . The object of love is a metaphor for the subject 
- its constitutive metaphor, its 'unary feature', which, by having it 
choose an adored part of the loved one, already locates it within the 
symbolic code of which this feature is a part. 18 Nevertheless, situating 
this unifying guideline within an objectality in the process of being 
established rather than in the absolute of the reference to the phallus 
as such has several advantages. It makes the transference relation 
dynamic, involves to the utmost the interpretative intervention of the 
analyst and calls attention to counter-transference as identification, this 
time of the analyst with the patient, along with the entire aura of 
imaginary formations germane to the analyst that all this entails. Without 
those conditions doesn't analysis run the risk of becoming set within 
the tyranny of idealization, precisely? Of the phallus or of the Superego? 
A word to wise Lacanians should be enough! 

Metonymic object of desire. Metaphorical object of love. The former 
controls the phantasmatic narrative. The latter outlines the crystallization 
of fantasy and rules the poeticalness of the discourse of love . . . 
During treatment, the analyst interprets his desire and his love, and 

248 Womeriy Psychoanalysis, Politics 

that sets him apart from the perverse position of the seducer and from 
that of a virtuous Werther as well. But he must display himself 
sometimes as desiring, other times as loving. By ensuring a loving Other 
to the patient, the analyst (temporarily) allows the Ego in the throes 
of drive to take shelter in the following fantasy: the analyst is not a 
dead Father but a living Father; this non-desiring but loving father 
reconciles the Ideal Ego with the Ego Ideal and elaborates the psychic 
space where, possibly and subsequently, an analysis can take place. 

Henceforth, the analyst must in addition let it be known - since he is 
an analyst and neither a good shepherd nor a father-confessor - that he 
is a fleeting, failing or even abject subject of desire. He will then trigger 
within the psychic space his love has allowed to exist the tragicomedy of 
life drives and death drives, knowing in his nescience that if Eros opposes 
Thanatos they are not evenly matched in their struggle. For Thanatos is 
pure while Eros has, since the beginning, been permeated with Thanatos, 
the most deep-seated drive being the death drive (Freud). 

To say that the analyst handles love as a discourse allowing idealizing 
distance as a condition for the very existence of psychic space is not 
to assimilate analytic attitude to that of a primary love object, the archaic 
prototype of the genital love, as Balint's work suggests with seductive 
munificence. 19 Concentrating, for a while, one's thoughts on love 
within analysis actually leads one to scrutinize, in the treatment, not 
a narcissistic merger with the maternal container but the emergence 
of a metaphorical object - in other words, the very splitting that establishes 
the psyche and, let us call this 'primal repression', bends the drive 
towards the symbolic of an other. Only the metaphorical dynamics (in 
the sense of a heterogeneous displacement shattering the isotopy of organic 
needs) justifies that this other be a Great Other. The analyst thus 
temporarily stands in the place of the Great Other inasmuch as he is 
a metaphorical object of idealizing identification. It is in knowing this 
and doing it that he creates the space of transference. If he represses 
it, on the other hand, the analyst becomes the Fuhrer that Freud already 
loathed in Group Psychology - a loathing that showed to what extent 
analytic practice was not exempt from such hysterical phenomena. 

Hate identification, love identification 

Tt is easy', Freud believed, 'to translate into a phrase the difference 
between identification with the father and affection for the father as 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 249 

sexual object (der Unterschied einer solcken Vateridentifizierung von einer 
Vaterobjektwahl): in the first instance the father is what one would want 
to be (das, was man sein mochte), in the second he is what one would 
want to have (das, was man haben mochte). In the first instance, it is 
the subject of the ego that is concerned, in the second it is its object. 
That is why identification is possible before any choice of object is made 
(Es is also der Unterschied, ob die Bindung am Subjekt oder am Objekt 
des Ichs angreift. Die erstere ist darum bereits vor jeder sexuellen Objektwahl 
moglich).' 20 

It will be noted that the first identification Freud points to in this 
study is a morbid identification with the mother (for instance, the little 
girl takes up her mother's cough on account of *a hostile desire to take 
the mother's place - einfeindseliges Ersetzenwollen der Mutter - in which 
case the symptom expresses the erotic fondness for the father'). Though 
conceived within the system of the Oedipus complex (Entweder ist die 
Identifizierung dieselbe aus dem Odipuskomplex), such an identification 
nevertheless reminds one of Melanie Klein's projective identification, 
which is sustained by the 'hostile' as well as guilt-ridden desire to take 
the place of a persecuting mother out of envy. Object identification 
because of hatred for one part of the object and fear of persecution. 
The second type of identification is revealed by a symptom that apes 
that of the loved one (the daughter, Dora, catches the father's cough). 
Here, 'identification has taken the place of erotic propensity, and the 
latter has been changed, through regression, into identification' (die 
Identifizierung sei an Stelle der Objektwahl getreten, die Objektwahl sei 
zur Identifizierung regrediert). Without hostility in this case, identifica- 
tion coincides with the object of desire through 'a kind of insertion of 
the object into the ego' (gleichsam dutch Introjektion des Objekts ins Ich). 
Love, contrary to the morbid identification mentioned above, would 
be the merging of the identifying ideal with the object of desire. In the 
third place, libidinal desires can be completely lacking when identifica- 
tion with another person is made on the basis of some common traits. 

One is thus led to conceive of at least two identifications; a primal 
one, resulting from a sentimental (Gefuhlsbindung an ein Objekt), archaic 
and ambivalent affection for the maternal object, more frequently 
produced by the impetus of guilt-producing hostility; the other, which 
underlies the introjection into the Ego of an object itself already libidinal 
(libidinose Objektbindung), providing the dynamics of the pure loving 
relationship. The former is closer to depersonalization, phobia and 

250 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

psychosis; the second is closer to hysterical lovehate, taking to itself 
the phallic ideal that it pursues. 

Between hysteria and inability to love 

The lover is a narcissist with an object. Love involves a sizeable 
'Aufhebung' of narcissism; consequently, the relationship established 
by Freud between love and narcissism must not cause us to forget their 
essential difference. Is it not true that the narcissist, as such, is precisely 
someone incapable of love? 

The lover, in fact, reconciles narcissism and hysteria. As far as he 
is concerned, there is an idealizable other who returns his own ideal 
image (that is the narcissistic moment), but he is nevertheless an other. 
It is essential for the lover to maintain the existence of that ideal other 
and to be able to imagine himself similar, merging with him and even 
indistinguishable from him. In amorous hysteria the ideal other is a 
reality, not a metaphor. The archaeology of such an identifying possi- 
bility with an other is provided by the huge place taken up within 
narcissistic structure by the vortex of primary identification with what 
Freud called a 'father of individual prehistory ' . Endowed with the sexual 
attributes of both parents, and by that very token a totalizing, phallic 
figure, it provides satisfactions that are already psychic and not simply 
immediate, existential requests; that archaic vortex of idealization is 
immediately an other who gives rise to a powerful, already psychic 
transference of the previous semiotic body in the process of becoming 
a narcissistic Ego. Its very existence and my being able to take myself 
for it - that is what already moves us away from the primal maternal 
satisfaction and situates us within the hysterical universe of loving 

It is obvious from the behaviour of young children, that the first love 
object of boys and girls is the mother. Then where does one fit in this 
'father of individual prehistory'? Freud's bent perhaps causes him to 
speak as a Jew, but he speaks foremost as a psychoanalyst. He in fact 
dissociates idealization (and with it the amatory relationship) from the 
bodily exchange between mother and child, and he introduces the Third 
Party as a condition of psychic life, to the extent that it is a loving life. 
If love stems from narcissistic idealization, it has nothing to do with 
the protective wrapping over skin and sphincters that maternal care 
provides for the baby. Worse yet, if that protection continues, if the 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 251 

mother 'clings' to her offspring, laying on it the request that originates 
in her own request as confused neotenic and hysteric in want of love, 
the chances are that neither love nor psychic life will ever hatch from 
such an egg. The loving mother, different from the caring and clinging 
mother, is someone who has an object of desire; beyond that, she has 
an Other with relation to whom the child will serve as go-between. She 
will love her child with respect to that Other, and it is through a discourse 
aimed at that Third Party that the child will be set up as 'loved' for 
the mother. 'Isn't he beautiful', or 'I am proud of you', and so forth, 
are statements of maternal love because they involve a Third Party; 
it is in the eyes of a Third Party that the baby the mother speaks to 
becomes a he, it is with respect to others that 'I am proud of you', and 
so forth. Against this verbal backdrop or in the silence that presupposes 
it the bodily exchange of maternal fondness may take on the imaginary 
burden of representing love in its most characteristic form. Nevertheless, 
without the maternal 'diversion' towards a Third Party, the bodily 
exchange is abjection or devouring; the eventual schizophrene, whether 
phobic or borderline, will keep its hot-iron brand against which his only 
recourse will be hatred. Any borderline person ends up finding a mother 
who is 'loving' for her own sake, but he cannot accept her as loving 
himself, for she did not love any other one. The Oedipal negation of 
the father is here linked with a complaint against an adhesive maternal 
wrapping, and it leads the subject towards psychic pain dominated by 
the inability to love. 

If one grants the ternary structure of narcissism and its already 
harbouring the hysterical beginning of an idealizable object (the object 
of love germane to primary identification), how can one, to the contrary, 
understand the inability to love? The cold, set and somewhat false 
complaint of the borderline person that he is unable to love needs 
perhaps to be related not to narcissism but to auto-eroticism. Previous 
to the 'new psychic action' that includes a third party within narcissism, 
the auto-erotic set-up has neither an other nor an image. All of its figures, 
all figures disappoint it as much as they fascinate it. The auto-erotic 
person cannot allow himself to be 'loved' (no more than he can let 
himself be lovable), except by a maternal substitute who would cling 
to his body like a poultice - a reassuring balm, asthmogenic perhaps, 
but nevertheless a permanent wrapping. Such a false mother is the only 
'farthering' \p2re-manence] tolerated by one who, henceforth, will 
indolently be able to enjoy his own organs in polymorphous perversity. 

252 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

He is undifferentiated, set within the shattered territories of his parcelled 
body, coiled up about his erogenous zones. He is indifferent to love, 
withdrawn in the pleasure that a provisionally reassuring diving-suit 
gives him. The auto-erotic person is not, however, autistic: he discovers 
objects, but they are objects of hatred. Nevertheless, during those 
moments that have no saving grace and when the subject is deprived 
of durability, the hatred that an opposite object projects before him 
works indeed more strongly upon himself, threatening him with decom- 
position or petrifaction. The auto-erotic person who complains or boasts 
of being unable to love is afraid of going mad - schizophrenia or 
catatonia . . . 

Dynamics of the ideal 

The subject exists only inasmuch as it identifies with an ideal other who 
is the speaking other, the other in so far as he speaks. A ghost, 21 a 
symbolic formation beyond the mirror, this Other, who is indeed the 
size of a Master, is a magnet for identification because he is neither 
an object of need nor one of desire. The Ego Ideal includes the Ego 
on account of the love that this Ego has for it and thus unifies it, restrains 
its drives, turns it into a Subject. An Ego is a body to be put to death, 
or at least to be deferred, for the love of the Other and so that Myself 
can be. Love is a death sentence that causes me to be. When death, 
which is intrinsic to amorous passion, takes place in reality and carries 
away the body of one of the lovers, it is at its most unbearable; the 
surviving lover then realizes the abyss that separates the imaginary death 
that he experienced in his passion from the relentless reality from which 
love had forever set him apart: saved . . . 

The subject's identification with the symbolic Other, with its Ego 
Ideal, goes through a narcissistic absorption of the mother as object 
of need, an absorption that sets up the Ideal Ego. The lover is cognizant 
of the regression that leads him from adoring an ideal ghost to the ecstatic 
or painful inflating of his own image, his own body. 

Such a logic of idealizing identification leads one to posit, as lining 
of the visual, specular structure of the fantasy $ a ) m search of the 
ever inadequate image of a desired other, the existence of a preliminary 
condition. If the object of fantasy is receding, metonymical, it is because 
it does not correspond to the preliminary ideal that the identification 
process, SeA, has constructed. The subject exists because 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 253 

it belongs to the Other, and it is in proceeding from that symbolic 
belonging that causes him to be subject to love and death that he will 
be able to set up for himself imaginary objects of desire. Transferred 
to the Other (JfcA) as to the very place from which he is seen and heard, 
the loving subject does not have access to that Other as to an object, 
but as to the very possibility of the perception, distinction and differen- 
tiation that allows one to see. That ideal is nevertheless a blinding, 
non-representable power - sun or ghost. Romeo says, ' . . .Juliet is the 
sun', and that loving metaphor transfers on to Juliet the glare Romeo 
experiences in the state of love, dedicating his body to death, in order 
to become immortal within the symbolic community of others restored 
by his love precisely. 

The ideal identification with the symbolic upheld by the Other thus 
activates speech more than image. Doesn't the signifying voice, in the 
final analysis, shape the visible, hence fantasy? Whenever we observe 
how young children learn forms we are led to understand to what extent 
'sensorimotor spontaneity' is of little avail without the help of language. 
Poets have known from time immemorial that music is the language 
of love, and it has led them to suggest that the yearning captured by 
the loved beauty is nevertheless transcended - preceded and guided 
- by the ideal signifier: a sound on the fringe of my being, which 
transfers me to the place of the Other, astray, beyond meaning, out 
of sight. 22 In short, identification causes the subject to exist within the 
signifier of the Other. Archaically, primitively, it is not object-oriented 
but carried out as transference to the place of a captivating and unifying 
feature, a 'unary feature'. The analyst is an object (necessarily a partial 
one) but he also exerts the drawing power of a 'unary feature', of a 
non-object: the actual drifting of a possible metaphoricality. 

Here the term metaphor should not bring to mind the classic rhetorical 
trope (figurative v. plain) but instead, on the one hand, the modern 
theories of metaphor that decipher within it an indefinite jamming of 
semantic features one in to the other, a meaning being acted out; and, 
on the other, the drifting of heterogeneity within a heterogeneous 
psychic apparatus, going from drives and sensations to signifier and 
conversely. 23 

Since it is not object-oriented, identification reveals how the subject 
that ventures there can finally find himself a hypnotized slave of his 
master; how he can turn out to be a non-subject, the shadow of a non- 
object. Nevertheless, it is because identification is not object-oriented, 

254 Women, Psychoanalysis y Politics 

that the signifier's non-object-oriented underlying layer of drives 
becomes activated during the treatment that is carried out without the 
Einfuhlung being repressed. In such a case, therefore, it is possible for 
transference to gain a hold on non-object-oriented psychic states such 
as 'false selves', borderline cases and even psychosomatic symptoms. 
It is indeed true that one is ill when not loved; this means that a psychic 
structure that lacks an identifying metaphor or idealization tends to 
realize it in that embodied non-object called somatic symptom - illness. 
Somatic persons are not those who do not verbalize, they are subjects 
who lack or miscarry the dynamics of metaphoricity, which constitute 
idealization as a complex process. 

Finally, being the magnet for loving identification causes the Other 
to be understood not as a 'pure signifier' but as the very space of 
metaphorical shifting: a condensation of semantic features as well as 
non-representable drive heterogeneity that subtends them, goes beyond 
them and slips awaty. Actually, by stressing the partiality of the 'unary 
feature' during idealizing identification, Lacan located idealization solely 
within the field of the signifier and of desire; he clearly if not drastically 
separated it from narcissism as well as from drive heterogeneity and 
its archaic hold on the maternal vessel. To the contrary, by emphasizing 
the metaphoricality of the identifying idealization movement, we can 
attempt to restore to the analytic bond located there (transference and 
counter-transference) its complex dynamics, which includes the narcis- 
sistic, drive-animated pre-object-orientation and allows it to be tied down 
to signifying ideals. From this standpoint, there would be no analytical 
idealization that did not rest upon sublimation. In other words, 
psychoanalysis skirts religious faith in order to expend it in the form 
of literary discourse. 

Immediate and absolute 

Freud's definition of 'primary identification' as 'direct and immediate' 
(direkte und unmittelbare) 24 has not, as far as I know, aroused the 
attention of analysts. In light of that phrase, let us reflect for a moment 
on the value that speculative philosophy, particularly that of Hegel, 
assigns to such immediacy. 

The immanent presence of the Absolute in Knowing is immediately 
revealed to the Subject as the recognition of that which never left him. 
More specifically, the Hegelian immediate (Unmittelbare) is the ultimate 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 255 

disengagement of consistency for the sake of form, the internal overthrow 
of reflection-in-itself, matter being removed from the self, without yet 
being for itself and hence for the other. Hegel notes in his Science of 
Logic 'Immediacy, which, as reflection-in-itself, is consistency (Besteheri) 
as well as form, reflection on something else, reflection doing away with 
itself. ' 25 Heidegger, in his text on Hegel's Introduction to the 
Phenomenology of the Spirit entitled 'Hegel and His Concept of Experience' 
wished to investigate that immediate presence of the Absolute in order 
to show the a priori or arbitrariness of the 'immediate' and reveal, on 
both its far and near sides, the 'blossoming of the Logos', dear to 
Heideggerian discourse. 26 Within the scope of these reflections, one 
might maintain that the immediate , being the auto-severance of certainty 
in the self, is at the same time that which severs it from object-relation 
and bestows on it its power of acquittance (Absolvenz) without mediation, 
without object, but keeping and containing both; hence the immediate 
is the very logic of parousia, that is, the presence of the subject for the 
object. 'It behoves him to keep any relation that merely pertains to 
the object . . . ' is Heidegger's comment. As the most basic indication 
of parousia, the immediate also presents itself as the logic of Absolvenz, 
as severance outside of relationship, and constitutes the absoluteness 
of the Absolute. 'It is there, in auto-representation, that the parousia 
of the absolute is displayed' (ibid.). 

In other words, the presence of the Absolute in Knowing is immediately 
revealed to the subject; consequently, any other 'means' of knowledge 
is no more than a recognition. 'The absolute is from the outset in and 
for itself beside us and wants to be beside us', Hegel states in his 
introduction to the Phenomenology. Such a being-beside-us would be 'the 
manner in which the light of the truth of the absolute itself enlightens 
us', as Heidegger says in his commentary. We are immediately within 
parousia, 'always-already', before producing a 'relationship' to it. 

Let us put aside the visual aspect, be it imagined or imaginary, of that 
immediacy of the Absolute, which Heidegger enabled us to hear when 
he unfolded the word for knowledge [ Wissenschaft] in its sonorousness 
[novisse, to have a knowledge of, viso, to look at] , and which Lacan empha- 
sized when he placed the mirror at the core of the Ego's formation. Let 
me first stress that specular fascination is a belated phenomenon in the 
genesis of the Ego. And let us try to think through the philosophical 
investigation against the backdrop of what the analyst might see in the 
appearance of the term 'immediate' at the heart of primary identification. 

256 Womeitj Psychoanalysis, Politics 

With Freud, the arbitrariness of paternal emergence seems undeniable, 
at any rate absolutely necessary to the interpretative analytic construc- 
tion. Nevertheless, clinical experience has led us to ascertain that the 
advent of the Vater der personlichen Vorzeit takes place thanks to the 
assistance of the so-called pre-Oedipal mother, to the extent that she 
can indicate to her child that her desire is not limited to responding 
to her offspring's request (or simply turning it down). This assistance 
is none other than maternal desire for the father's phallus. 

Which father? The child's father or her own? For 'primary identifica- 
tion' the question is not relevant. If there is an immediacy of the child's 
identification with that desire (of the father's phallus), it probably comes 
from the child's not having to elaborate it; rather, he receives it, mimics 
it or even sustains it through the mother who offers it to him (or refuses 
it) as a gift. In a way, such an identification with the father-mother 
conglomerate, as Freud would have it, or with what we just called the 
maternal desire for the phallus, comes as a godsend. And for a very 
good reason, since without that disposition of the psyche, the child and 
the mother do not yet constitute 'two'. . . 

As for the image making up this 'imagination', it should not be 
conceived as simply visual but as a representation activating various 
facilitations corresponding to the entire gamut of perceptions, especially 
the sonorous ones; this because of their precocious appearance in the 
domain of neuropsychological maturation, but also because of their 
dominant function in speech. 

Nevertheless, let us not be mistaken about the ease of such an 
immediacy. It entails an important consequence: within that logic, the 
word 'object', just like the word 'identification', becomes improper. A 
not-yet-identity (of the child) is transferred or rather displaced to the 
site of an Other who is not libidinally cathexed as an object but remains 
an Ego Ideal. 

Not I 

Let me now point out that the most archaic unity that we thus retrieve 
- an identity so autonomous that it calls forth displacements - is that 
of the phallus desired by the mother. It is the unity of the imaginary 
father, a coagulation of the mother and her desire. The imaginary father 
would thus be the indication that the mother is not complete but that 
she wants . . . Who? What? The question has no answer other than the 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 257 

one that uncovers narcissistic emptiness; 'At any rate, not I.' Freud's 
famous 'What does a woman want' is perhaps only the echo of the more 
fundamental 'What does a mother want?' It runs up against the same 
impossibility, bordered on one side by the imaginary father, on the other 
by a 'not I'. And it is out of this 'not V (see Beckett's play with that 
title) that an Ego painfully attempts to come into being. . . 

In order to maintain himself in that place, to assume the leap that 
will definitely anchor him in the imaginary father and in language or 
even in art, the speaking being must engage in a struggle with the 
imaginary mother, for whom it will eventually constitute an object 
separated from the Ego. But we are not at that stage yet. The immediate 
transference towards the imaginary father, who is such a godsend that 
you have the impression that it is he who is transferred into you, 
withstands a process of rejection involving what may have been chaos 
and is about to become an abject. The maternal space can come into 
being as such, before becoming an object correlative to the Ego's desire, 
only as an abject. 

In short, primary identification appears to be a transference to (from) 
the imaginary father, correlative to the establishment of the mother as 
'ab-jected'. Narcissism would be that correlation (with the imaginary 
father and the 'ab-jected' mother) enacted around the central emptiness 
of that transference. This emptiness, which is apparently the primer 
of symbolic function, is precisely encompassed in linguistics by the bar 
separating signifier from signified and by the 'arbitrariness' of the sign, 
or in psychoanalysis by the 'gaping' of the mirror. 

If narcissism is a defence against the emptiness of separation, then 
the whole contrivance of imagery, representations, identifications and 
projections that accompany it on the way towards strengthening the 
Ego and the Subject is a means of exorcising that emptiness. Separation 
is our opportunity to become narcissists or narcissistic, at any rate sub- 
jects of representation. The emptiness it opens up is nevertheless also the 
barely covered abyss where our identities, images and words run the 
risk of being engulfed. 

The mythical Narcissus would heroically lean over that emptiness 
to seek in the maternal watery element the possibility of representing 
the self or the other - someone to love. Beginning with Plotinus at 
least, 27 theoretical thought has forgotten that it rumbled along over 
emptiness before lovingly springing towards the solar source of represen- 
tation, the light that enables us to see and with which we aspire to 

258 Womeity Psychoanalysis y Politics 

become equal, idealization following upon idealization, perfecting upon 
perfecting: In famine tuo videbimus lumen. Psychotic persons, however, 
remind us, in case we had forgotten, that the representational con- 
trivances that cause us to speak, elaborate or believe rest upon emptiness. 
Possibly the most radical atheists are those who, not knowing what the 
ability to represent owes to a Third Party, remain prisoners of the archaic 
mother, for whom they mourn in the suffering of emptiness. 

Within sight of that Third Party I elaborate the narcissistic parry that 
allows me to block up that emptiness, to calm it and turn it into a 
producer of signs, representations and meanings. I elaborate it within 
sight of the Third Party. I seduce this 'father of individual prehistory' 
because he has already caught me, for he is simple virtuality, a potential 
presence, a form to be cathected. Always already there, the forming 
presence that none the less satisfies none of my auto-erotic needs draws 
me into the imaginary exchange, the specular seduction. He or I - who 
is the agent? Or even, is it he or is it she? The immanence of its 
transcendence, as well as the instability of our borders before the setting 
of my image as 'my own', turn the murky source (eine neue psyckische 
Aktiori) from which narcissism will flow into a dynamics of confusion 
and delight. Secrets of our loves. 

The Ideal Ego sated with the Ego Ideal will take over from that 
alchemy and strengthen the defences of the narcissistic Ego. Conscious- 
ness, along with moral conscience (that stern and precious paternal 
inheritance), will not truly lead us, under the tyrannical protection of 
the Superego, to forget the narcissistic emptiness and its surface 
composed of imaginary recognitions and cathexes. At least it will help 
us block them up; they always remain as more or less painful wounds 
at the heart of our functions, successes or failures. Beneath homosexual 
libido, which our social objectives catch and maintain captive, the chasms 
of narcissistic emptiness spread out; although the latter can be a powerful 
motive for ideal or superegotic cathexis, it is also the primary source 
of inhibition. 

In being narcissistic one has already throttled the suffering of 
emptiness. The fragility, however, of the narcissistic elaboration, under- 
pinning the ego image as well as ideal cathexes, is such that it cracks 
immediately reveal the negative of our image films to those that others 
consider to be 'narcissistic'. More than insane, empty, that lining of 
our projection and representation devices is yet another defence of the 
living being. When he succeeds in eroticizing it, when he allows the 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 259 

non-object-oriented, pre-narcissistic violence of the drive directed 
towards an abject to run wild, then death triumphs in that strange path. 
Death drive and its psychological equivalent, hatred, is what Freud 
discovers after stopping off at Narcissus. Narcissism and its lining, 
emptiness, are in short our most intimate, brittle and archaic elabora- 
tions of death drive. The most advanced, courageous and threatened 
sentries of primal repression. 

In contrast with Melanie Klein's 'projective identification', the 
proposition I am offering here has the advantage of pointing to, even 
before the Oedipal triangle and within a specific disposition, the place 
of the Third Party; without the latter the phase Melanie Klein calls 
'schizo-paranoid' could not become a 'depressive' phase and thus could 
not carry the 'symbolic equivalences' to the level of linguistic 'signs'. 
The archaic inscription of the father seems to me a way of modifying 
the fantasy of a phallic mother playing at the phallus game all by herself, 
alone and complete, in the back room of Kleinism and post-Kleinism. 

As for language, the notion outlined here differs, furthermore, from 
innatist theories concerning linguistic competence (Chomsky) as well 
as from Lacanian notions of an always-already-there of language that 
would be revealed as such in the subject of the unconscious. I of course 
assume, with respect to the infans, that the symbolic function pre-exists, 
but also maintain an evolutionary postulate that leads me to seek to 
elaborate various dispositions giving access to that function, and this 
corresponds as well to various psychic structures. 

In the light of what precedes, what I have called a 'narcissistic struc- 
turation' appears to be the earliest juncture (chronologically and 
logically) whose spoors we might detect in the unconscious. Conversely, 
understanding narcissism as origin or as undecomposable, unanalysable 
screen leads the analyst (and no matter what theoretical warnings might 
be given in other respects) to present his interpretative discourse as a 
haven, either comforting or confrontingly aggressive, for a narcissism 
that thus finds itself recognized and renewed. Whether comforting or 
authenticating (by rational criticism, for instance, in interpretations of 
the 'mental process' sort), such a welcome falls into the trap of narcissism 
and seldom succeeds in leading it through the Oedipal procession on 
to the topology of a complex subject. 

In fact, clinical practicians like Wirmicot protected themselves against 
such a danger, if only by always advocating a mixture of 'narcissistic' 
and 'Oedipal' interpretations in so-called psychotic states. Nevertheless, 

260 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

if the dead end that has just been noted can be encountered by others, 
the reason for it must probably be located in a basic omission - that 
of the agency of the imaginary father from the start of primary iden- 
tification, an agency of which 'projective identification' is a more belated 
consequence (logically and chronologically). One may still reach that 
dead end, by the same token, if one ignores the very concrete and specific 
structuration required by psychicism within that very elementary 
disposition, which the term 'narcissism' threatens to reduce to a fascina- 
tion for what is nothing else than the mother's phallus. 

Persian or Christian 

The dynamics of primary identification, which structures emptiness and 
object as what may have appeared as a 'narcissistic screen', will allow 
us to examine another enigmatic juncture on the Freudian path. 

Freud's uneasiness concerning Christianity is well known, and his 
rationality would not let him put it into words with respect to revealed 
religion, but, dazzled and prudent, he did express it when faced with 
Persian religion. 'The sun-drenched face of the young Persian god has 
remained incomprehensible to us.' 28 It is indeed possible to interpret 
that refulgent jouissance as 'direct and immediate' primary identifica- 
tion with the phallus desired by the mother; this amounts neither to 
being the mother's phallus nor entering the Oedipal drama. A certain 
phantasmatic incestuous potentiality is thus set aside; it works from 
the place of the imaginary father and constitutes the basis of imagina- 
tion itself. Moreover, the subsequent naming of that relationship perhaps 
represents the conditions of sublimation. 

In Freud's text, the 'refulgent and incomprehensible* face, lacking 
an Oedipal feeling of fault or guilt, would be that of the leader of the 
horde of brothers who kills the father and boasts of his feat (as Ernest 
Jones suggests). 29 One might, on the other hand, consider a pre- or 
non-Oedipal disposition of that jouissance', a position of symbolicity that 
stems from primary identification, coupled with what the latter infers 
as to sexual non-differentiation (father-and-mother, man-and-woman) 
and immediate transference to the site of maternal desire. That would 
constitute a fragile inscription of subjecthood, one which, under the 
subsequent Oedipal sway, would retain no more than a phantasmatic 
status. In addition, such a warm but dazzling, domesticated paternity 
includes imaginary exultation as well as a risk of dissolving identities 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 261 

that only the Freudian Oedipal process ends up strengthening, in the 
ideal hypothesis of course. 

Maintaining against the winds and high tides of our modern civilization 
the requirement of a stern father who, through his Name, brings about 
separation, judgement and identity, constitutes a necessity, a more or 
less pious wish. But we can only note that if this sternness is shaken, 
far from leaving us orphaned or inexorably psychotic, such an unsettling 
action will reveal multiple and varied destinies for paternity - notably 
of archaic, imaginary paternity. Those destinies could or can be 
manifested by the clan as a whole, by the priest or by the therapist. 
In all cases, however, we are dealing with a function that guarantees 
the subject's entry into a disposition, a fragile one to be sure, of an 
ulterior, unavoidable Oedipal destiny, but one that can also be playful 
and sublimational. 

Seducer or ideal father 

The tragical dynamics of the father's idealization is taken up again in 
Moses and Monotheism through the theme of the election of the Jewish 
people by its God and through the story of Moses. There is nothing 
to make one conceive this election as a revival of the old idea, sub- 
sequently abandoned by Freud, of the father as the hysterical person's 
first seducer. The father who brings a people into being through his 
love is perhaps indeed closer to the 'father of individual prehistory', 
and, at any rate, to the idealizing agency that drains early identifica- 
tions, not as object but as 'unary feature'. One might nevertheless 
interpret Freudian thought with respect to this loving father in the 
following fashion. The hysterical structure of the horde of brothers 
construes him as a seducer, an agent of the libido, of Eros, and puts 
him to death; this is Moses' murdered body. Yet there is also a structural 
necessity for his unique love as symbolic choice; it appears later on as 
a pressing need to lay down moral rules or a right to the tribe. The 
father will then be recognized not as seducer but as Law, as an abstract 
agency of the One that selects our identifying and idealizing power. 
The Christian trinity, for its part, reconciles the seducer and the legislator 
by inventing another form of love - Agape, symbolic (nominal, spiritual) 
from the very start and corporeal, absorbing the acknowledged murder 
of the erotic body into the universalist profusion of the symbolist distinc- 
tion for everyone (brother or stranger, faithful or sinner). 30 

262 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

What is opposed to the recognition of the imaginary father? What 
is it that produces its repression, or even its burial? Freud drops the 
word 'character', with its well-known anal connotations. 'Whatever 
resistance character might later be able to bring to bear against the 
influence of abandoned sexual objects, the effects of earlier identifica- 
tions, carried out in the most precocious stages of life, will always keep 
their general, lasting features.' 31 

Character is one of the limits to what is analy sable, and that is 
confirmed by the difficulties encountered in the region we are now 
investigating. Furthermore, because of the anal character's resistance 
against primary identification, the advent of the abject during treat- 
ment can clearly be seen as the first breach in resistance . . . Nevertheless 
and above all it is Oedipal rivality, which creates mediations, that 
tragically darkens the dazzlement of primary identification. Within the 
Oedipus complex, the question is no longer 'Who is it?' but 'Who has 
it?'; the narcissistic question 'Am I?' becomes a possessive or attributive 
question, 'Have I?' It is none the less true that by starting from Oedipal 
dramas and their failures - backwards, in other words - one will be 
able to detect the particulars of primary identification. It is to be noted, 
however, that 'boundary states' lead us there directly, locating the 
Oedipal conflict as ulterior or secondary. 

A boy will have difficulty tearing himself away from the petrifying 
situation of being his mother's phallus; or if he succeeds, through 
the maternal grandfather (among others) who has come in between, 
he will never cease waging war against his brothers in the shadow 
of an inaccessible father. Only in poetic enunciation will it be pos- 
sible for him to be son-and-father within the immediate and direct 
disposition of primary identification, and bypassing sexual difference 
- witness the troubadours and Joyce. As for the girl she will retain 
the traces of that primary transference only if assisted by a father 
having a maternal character, who nevertheless will not be of much help 
in her breaking away from the mother and finding a heterosexual object. 
She will thus tend to bury that primary identification under the dis- 
appointed feverishness of the homosexual, or else in abstraction, which, 
as it flies away from the body, fully constitutes itself as 'soul' or fuses 
with an Idea, a Love, a Self-sacrifice. . .If ever ajouissance remains, 
it still seems to partake of that archaic differentiation that Freud so 
delicately and elliptically touched on under the heading of 'primary 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 263 

* Narcissistic structure' thus remains a permanent fixture in the 
threnodies of love that beckon to us . . . 

John, the ferryman, and emptiness 

John comes into analysis with the complaints of borderline cases, which have 
been fully catalogued by Winnicot, Fairbairn and Rosenfeld - false self, sexual 
impotence, professional dissatisfaction. His discourse seems to pay tribute to 
fashion, of which he is yet largely unaware, when he plays with signifiers, 
deals with words as if they were objects or proceeds by fragmentary, illogical, 
chaotic sentence concatenations; thus, after having lived and talked so much, 
he gives the impression of being empty. The theme of emptiness, explicit during 
the treatment of this man, generates multiple metaphors and configurations, 
all centred in the mother, for which he never uses the possessive adjective. 
As if repression were problematic, all incestuous as well as murderous contents 
are present in his discourse. Nevertheless, if they have a meaning, they have 
no signification for this patient. Within the empty enclosure of his narcissism, 
contents (drives and representations) could not find an other (an addressee) 
who, alone, might have given a signification to their weighty meaning that 
is still felt as empty because it is deprived of love. Transference caused two 
elements to surface out of the void, and they allowed the long walk around 
the Oedipal problematics. 

First there was the outbreak of abjection. 32 Desired or to be killed, the 
mother was embodied only as abject, repulsive, decked out with all the details 
of a previously frozen anality. In the same way, and still protected by an 
explicitly idealizing transference, the patient transforms the uncertain boun- 
daries between what is not yet an Ego and what is not yet an Other by filling 
this not-yet-an-Ego with 'abjects', thus bringing it out of emptiness, and then 
giving it only a narcissistic consistency. ( I am repulsive, therefore I can be.' 
Neither subject nor object, both ab-jects each in his or her turn, mother and 
son painfully separate all through the initial stage of the treatment, necessarily 
activating the body's boundaries (skin or sphincters), fluids and ejections, so 
that passing symptoms might find a place in them. I saw that elementary struc- 
turation of narcissism as preceding any possibility of 'projective identification', 
which, although diffuse during the first phase of the treatment, did not appear 
essential (it had a meaning but no signification); only later could it be elaborated 
and interpreted. 

Meanwhile, and this is the second noteworthy element corresponding to the 
advent of the abject, the patient has a dream. In order to shield himself from 
his mother's lover who attracts his Oedipal identifications, John races away 
frantically, but he is losing ground when an old man, who resembles a saint, 

264 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

miraculously shows up. 'It is Christopher, I think, the one who carries the 
child Jesus, who lifts me upon his shoulders and takes me across the bridge. 
He carries me, but my own feet are doing the walking. . . ' The following 
sessions evoke John's father, who died when he was very young, but also the 
maternal uncle and grandfather, with whom he had spent his early years. The 
father, who had been disparaged up to now, averred absent or of no account, 
is shyly silhouetted in the patient's talk as an 'unassuming intellectual', 'movie 
buff, 'reader of James' ('strange for an unpretentious clerk, reading works 
like that'); this to uphold him in his struggle against the abject, thus giving 
him stabler boundaries, selves that last a little longer before appearing to be 
false, conflictual landmarks that blaze out the whiteness of a narcissism whose 
emptiness he initially deplored. 

Unlike Freud's patients, the borderline speaks of Eros but dreams of Agape. 
What was interpreted as a 'problematic repression', or even as a 'lack of 
repression' in such patients appears to be rather another position of repression. 
With the borderline patient, a negation weighs above all and heavily on primary 
identification. To say that this indicates a 'repudiation of the Name of the 
Father' is too sweeping and inaccurate, if only because of the existence of 
transference and, following upon the treatment, the emergence of the Oedipus 
complex, which can be more or less analysed. But that repression reminds 
one if anything of a negation of Agape (I shall use this term as synonymous 
to primary identification), with everything this implies concerning repression 
of homosexuality when a man is involved; it modifies the status of those 
representations linked to repressed erotic drives and mainly to erotic relation- 
ships within the dual relationship (including 'projective identification'). 
Consequently, affect representatives pass through the censorship of repression 
and appear within discourse as empty, without signification. Discourse itself 
undergoes an analogous process; laden with drives, it is nevertheless experi- 
enced as 'castrated', John says, without consistency, empty, too, for want of 
that elementary, archaic Third Party who could have been its addressee and, 
by receiving it, could have authenticated it. If all that remains is an Oedipal 
father, a symbolic father, no struggle against the 'abject', no becoming 
autonomous with respect to the phallic mother, could be inscribed in the body 
of language. 

The analyst, along this route, is summoned in place of the imaginary father, 
especially (and this is what the borderline patient dreams of) in order for him 
or her, apprehensively, to serve as a support for abjection. 

Marie and the absence of the mother 

Marie exhibits all the delightful throes of hysteria: demand following upon 
demand, affirmation upon affirmation, until she encounters 'total failure', 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 265 

which yet leaves her 'cold', although dramatically restless, apprehensive, 
distressed . . . 'It's amazing, I'm constantly struck by the futility of it all. ' This 
does not, however, spare her the symptom that prompts her to come into 
analysis - a suffocation that grips her as soon as she sits at the wheel of her 
car. Marie's story is not an ordinary one. Abandoned by her mother who dis- 
appeared during the war, she was first taken care of by her father's family 
and then put out to nurse. The father remarries and, 'completely terrorized 
by his wife', Marie says, sees his daughter only rarely; to him she is the burden 
of a youthful error whom he is ready to support but not to love. The mother's 
real absence raises to the highest pitch idealization and hatred towards her, 
with nothing left but the latter when, at age 25, Marie meets with and is dis- 
appointed by the family of the one who never ceases not to have room for 
her. Marie's relationships with women are frequent, conflictive and 'insignifi- 
cant': 'That doesn't interest me', she says, after having hundreds of times 
duplicated her 'symptom', as she puts it, when going to visit those women. 
But she holds back, expresses nothing, raises no objection - 'totally masochistic, 
you can say that again'. Concern for an essential narcissistic protection makes 
her 'obliging, friendly, kind', whereas her two ('never fewer than two', Marie 
specifies) sexual partners with whom she maintains alternating separate and 
conflictive relationships allow her to lose nothing of either the structure or 
the bounties of her childhood, and they restore to her a completion that is 
sometimes 'suffocating' but very satisfying, above all during the quarrels of 
the threesome. 

Out of the central emptiness of narcissism that the story of Marie outlines 
perhaps too straightforwardly (but how many actual, adored or hated, mothers 
of hysterical persons undergo the same occultation behind the screen of a 
winded narcissistic quest in the infinite mirror of hysteria?), measure herself 
or project herself. What was abjection for John is for Marie pure and simple 
inanity, restless, feverish and hollow; she is on an impossible search for a 'real 
job', a 'true love', which would bring an end to 'nobody loves me'. Such a 
logic dooms her to be a victim, but she realizes it only when a friend tells 
her, lost as she is within a space without boundaries, punctuated only by her 
symptoms (the 'suffocations' - a boundary, barrier or buttress?) and the 
jouissance of her fits of anger. 

On the occasion of her father's serious illness when she thought she might 
lose him, Marie had a dream. There is a death notice, a man has died, but 
the name on the notice is that of a woman. It is soon clear that it is the name 
of Marie's half-sister, her father's favorite. Marie subsequently discovers that 
the two men in her life also had other women, hence she is not unique. She 
becomes jealous, flares up against those women, against the analyst . . . 

The hysteric speaks of Agape and dreams of Eros Thanatos. But whether in 
this or that disposition of her love, she sustains her narcissistic infinite by 

266 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

jumbling the boundaries with her mother, and they both founder there in the 
delights of absence. Absence in relation to what? In relation to the elementary 
shift effected by primary identification, which allows for the existence of a 
potentially symbolic Other. For if it is transferred to the place of the imaginary 
father, inasmuch as he guarantees entrance into language and thwarts the 
phobic and psychotic potentiality of fusion hysteria, it is transferred along with 
the kit of representation but without the caboodle of drive. 

The caboodle remained in the emptiness of maternal fusion and/or maternal 
absence. I do mean and/or, for at this juncture, provided needs are satisfied 
(by a wet-nurse, nurse or mother who is only a care-giver without an other 
desire), having a mother or not makes no difference: they are the same, she 
is the same. The being that satisfies needs (that is, the mother without desire 
for the Other) can leave no other spoor than that of not being, of non-being. 
What endows the mother with existence is primary identification, on the basis 
of which the hysterical person's mother will not assume the outlines of an abject 
but those of a stranger, an absentee, an indifferent one, before becoming, 
thanks to the incipient Oedipus complex, a conflictive object of projective 

Such a hysteria will then experience its Eros with women, while waiting 
for a symbolic, idealizing Agape on the part of a man who will never, just 
the same, correspond to its design. That is what mortgages the Oedipus 
complex of hysteria and explains why it will have the greatest difficulty in 
choosing a loving object of the paternal kind. For, in that structure, the 
imaginary father does not exist - he gave out before allowing it to have an 
object finally capable of love and hate emerge out of maternal emptiness, an 
erotic object necessarily in the mother's likeness (for the man and for the 

Caught between derealization (blurring of boundaries, somatic symptoms), 
where a narcissism without boundaries unfolds in self-satisfied fashion, and 
settling scores with women - scores that are necessarily anal but repressed 
and for that reason not at all abject - hysteria seeks its identity under the stern 
attention of the symbolic father, a ruthless father. The way towards Oedipal 
identification with the father is either blocked or impeded by repression of 
the imaginary father who is fully transferred to the mother's account. The 
hysterical person, man or woman, is not the mother's phallus but does not 
want to know this. Negation of primary identification endows him or her with 
that perverse plasticity, coyness, feigned susceptibility . . .pretending that she 
does not exist since she is. . .the mother, in other words, nothing. . .or an 
inaccessible totality. 

It is possible to discern in the narcissistic hollowing out of the mother and 
in the anal economizing (in the sense of thrift) of abjection concerning her 
(the hysterical person spares itself maternal abjection, allowing, with respect 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 267 

to this proto-object, only emptiness or hatred, a iovehatred'), one of the 
conditions permitting the violence characteristic of projective identifications 
within this structure. Still more pronounced with women, these features, as 
I see it, shed light on the feminine paranoia that lies dormant in so many cases 
of hysteria. 

Matthew or the walkman against Saturn 

Matthew is one of those youngsters equipped with walkmen who have recently 
invaded the streets of Paris and, I suppose, are rarely seen on couches. He 
comes in wearing his headphones steeped in music that is 'classical, of course', 
as he specifies; he removes them only when he sees me, putting them back 
on upon leaving my office. A university graduate, an 'expert and bored' 
mathematician, as he puts it, he devotes himself to singing, which, however, 
he is no longer able to do, hence his entry into analysis. Gifted for computer 
languages, Matthew was no longer able to speak with his friends, nor could 
he utter a single word during a previous attempt at analysis that supposedly 
lasted three months. During several months of face-to-face therapy Matthew 
did not so much analyse as learn to put together a discourse for an other. 
Afterwards, rechning, he retraced a family history that was interrupted by 
brief sequences during which he said he was the victim of aggression - on 
the street, subway or bus. Music isolates him from such violence, but now 
he believes that it also brings it about. An elliptic, allusive language, as if 
fastened to abstraction, serves him more to delineate space than to signify 
something for me. For him, speaking is painful and tiring, either too diffusive 
or too intrusive. Music alone harmonizes that bipolarity (abstraction - 
intrusion), which, without the headphones, becomes petrified and ties Matthew 
to his bed, without a phone, cut off from others, as if 'surrounded with a chalk 
circle, invisible and impassable'. 

This phobo-obsessional equipment began to thaw when treatment caused 
the image of a devouring father to appear - eating, voracious, insatiable. A 
father- Saturn who took the place of the 'poor guy' and induced a whole series 
of masculine and feminine figures, educators-persecutors-seducers; starting 
from there, Matthew began to examine the role of his walkman and his retreat 
into music. 

Basing myself on this stage of his analysis, punctuated for me by Matthew's 
arrival with the headphones, I still have the feeling that he fears paternal 
seduction; is this phantasmatic or real? Appended to his mother, described 
as the key figure in the family, Matthew has not ceased being her phallus. 
Within their dual economy, which the father did not broach, it seemed 
apparently inconceivable that she might have a desire other than her child. 
The voracity of the dual symbiosis, accompanied by denial of the imaginary 

268 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

father and, consequently, an outpouring of withheld anal sadism, came back 
to Matthew from outside, projected - and this as soon as an object appeared, 
as masculine one preferably (for the mother blended with the patient). 

Music was the father-again, the landmark, the intermediary between 
confusion on the one hand and the invisible chalk circle, besieged by 
onslaughts, on the other. It allowed Matthew to set up a mobile identity for 
himself and to reject out of it, as abject, whatever did not belong (especially 
the Oedipal array to which were added the more archaic oral loathing and 
sadism). Matthew was gleeful, ecstatic and amorous but only as walkman. The 
headphones were a spot that included all other spots, an organized, differen- 
tiated infinity that filled him with consistency and allowed him to face Saturn's 
devouring but also to have his own destructiveness towards him recognized. 
Matthew's maternal uncle was a well-known pianist. Analysis made use of the 
walkman; identifying the shell that the headphones were destined to become, 
it turned it into a premise of autonomy, of demarcation. 

Obsessional neurosis, in the vault of its rituals, shelters a drifting, an 
instability that reveals the failure or fragility of primary identification, and 
that is what Matthew's walkman helped me to hear. . . 

'O God, I could be bounded in a nut-shell and count myself a king of infinite 
space, were it not that I have bad dreams', Hamlet said (II, 2), and Borges 
quotes those lines at the outset of his Alepk. 'The place where all the places 
of the universe can be located, without mtermingling', the Aleph is a 'privilege' 
granted the child in order that 'the man, some day, might engrave a poem'. 

Could what is thus being considered be the condition, and for some the 
sublimational possibility, for remaking an imaginary father, taking his place, 
creating his place within language? Such an economy takes nomination closest 
to that spot without object, both point and infinity, blocked identity and 
immediate identification. It is the place where narcissism is said to hold sway 
only in the painful manner of Hamlet, surrounded by abjectness, emptiness, 
ghostliness and quest for paternal love. For before killing him in Oedipal 
fashion, the speaking being, in order to speak, loves the 'father of personal 
prehistory'. Suffering, he beguiles himself with the sound of his cross, an 
acrobat walking a tightrope: should he let himself be walled in alive or make 
a poem out of it? 


1 This corresponds to, although it does not fully render, Kristeva's coinage, 
hainamoration. It was suggested by Margaret Waller (who translated Revolution in 
Poetic Language) to replace one of my own less fortunate neologisms - and I am 
indebted to her for many other suggestions and corrections as well. 

2 See On Narcissism: an introduction (1914) in volume XIV of the Standard Edition, 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 269 

this text is doubtless very bound up with the war, Freud's insecurity and Jung. 
Nevertheless, from the time of his earliest works, Freud insisted on a resistance 
that would have been imbedded in the very structure of neurons as well as on 
inhibition as master faculty of the Ego (Project for a scientific psychology, 1895, in 
volume I of the Standard Edition). 'We must reckon with the possibility that 
something in the nature of the sexual drive itself is unfavorable to the realization 
of complete satisfaction', he notes in 'The tendency to debasement in love', in The 
Psychology of Love, Standard Edition, vol. XI, pp. 188-9, before discovering 
narcissism at the same time as the illusion present at the outset of psychicism, as 
it is at the heart of amatory experience. Next comes what Freud himself called the 
'strange' postulate of death drive, posited towards the end of an exposition on the 
impossible in love, on loving hatred and primary masochism ('Beyond the pleasure 
principle', Standard Edition, vol. XVIII, pp. 51-61). See also chapter V of Histoires 
d' amour (Paris: Denoel, 1983), the section on Romeo and Juliet. 

3 Standard Edition, vol. XIV, p. 77. 

4 Jacques Lacan, Le Seminaire, Livre I, Les Ecrits techniques de Freud (Paris: Seuil, 
1975), p. 133. 

5 Andre" Green, Narcissisme de vie, narcissisme de mort (Paris: Minuit, 1983). 

6 See 'Being in love and hypnosis', in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego 
(1921), Standard Edition, vol. XVIII, pp. lllff. 

7 Ibid., p. 112. 

8 'Identification', in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, p. 105. 

9 Ibid., p. 105. 

10 Ibid., p. 110. 

11 Ibid., p. 107. 

12 The Ego and the Id (1923), Standard Edition, vol. XIX, p. 31. One of the main 
ideas of Freud's breviary of love amounts to positing that the Oedipus complex's 
decline (which he calls 'natural' but is in fact enigmatic) during the latency period 
favours the inhibition of partial drives and strengthens ideals - thus makin g the 
erotico-ideal cathexis of the love object possible during puberty. 'I am in love' is 
a fact of adolescence when the teenager is capable of partial repression because of 
difficulties in realizing Oedipal fantasies and can project his idealizing capabilities 
on to a person towards whom erotic desire can be deferred (see Christian David, 
L'Etat amour eux, Paris: Payot, 1971). Nevertheless, the premises for such a state 
of love go back to primary identification and, before they constitute a lover, they 
shape psychic space itself. 

13 Melanie Klein, Envy and Gratitude (London: Hogarth Press, 1957), p. 187. See 
also Melanie Klein and Jean Riviere, Love, hate, and Reparation (London: Hogarth 
Press, 1967). On Melanie Klein see Jean-Michel Petot, Melanie Klein, le moi et le 
bon objet (1932-1960) (Paris: Dunot, 1982). 

14 Klein, Envy and Qratitude, p. 180. 

15 Ibid., p. 191. 

16 Ibid., p. 193. 

17 Recalling that in analytical literature the object is in most instances a partial object 
(mammilla, scybalum, phallus, urine), Lacan specifies: 'This feature, this partial 
feature, rightly emphasized in objects, is applicable not because these objects are 

270 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

part of a total object, the body, but because they represent only partially the function 
that produces them.' Being a function of separation and of want that found the 
signifying relationship, these objects, designated by a lower case 'a', will be called 
'objects of want': 'These objects have one common feature in my elaboration of 
them - they have no specular image, or, in other words, alterity. It is what enables 
them to be the 'stuff, or rather the lining, though not in any sense the reverse, 
of the very subject that one takes to be the subject of consciousness. . .It is to this 
object that cannot be grasped in the mirror that the specular image lends its clothes' 
('Subversion of the subject and dialectic of desire', in Ecrits. A selection, tr. Alan 
Sheridan [New York: Norton, 1977], pp. 315-16. Lacan discovered in fantasy the 
exemplary efficacy of the object 'a' since in his view the structure of fantasy is link- 
ed 'to the condition of an object. . .the moment of a "fading" or eclipse of the 
subject that is closely bound up with the Spaltung or splitting that it suffers from 
its subordination to the signifier' (ibid., p. 313). That is what is symbolized by 
the formula (8 a ) where Q indicates desire. Finally, the metonymical structure 
defines the Lacanian object relation to the extent that 'it is the connection between 
signifier and signifier that permits the elision in which the signifier installs the want- 
of-being in the object relation, using the value of "reference back" possessed by 
signification in order to invest it with the desire aimed at the very want it supports' 
('The agency of the letter in the unconscious', ibid., p. 164). 
18 'Take just one signifier as an emblem of this omnipotence [of the other's authority], 
that is to say of this wholly potential power (ce pouvoir tout en puissance), this birth 
of possibility, and you have the unary feature {trait unaire), which, by filling in the 
invisible mark that that the subject derives from the signifier, alienates this subject 
in the primary identification that forms the ego ideal' ('Subversion of the subject 
and dialectic of desire', in Ecrits, p. 306). The unary feature of Lacan goes back 
to the 'unique feature' (einziger Zug), to which would be limited the identification 
that is only partial, according to Freud in Identification (das beide Male die Identi- 
fizierung eine partielle, hochst beschrankie ist) - see the Seminars on Transference 
(1960-61) and on Identification (1961-2). Lacan takes advantage of that partial status, 
on the whole rather imprecise with Freud, in order to insist upon the unique feature 
(einziger Zug) that establishes identification as intrinsically symbolic, hence subjected 
to the distinctiveness of signifying traits, and finally ruled by the benchmark of 
One feature, of the Unique - foundation of my very own unicity . . . This unary 
feature is not 'in the first field of narcissistic identification' where we have witnessed 
the emergence of the imaginary father; Lacan sees it straight off 'in the field of 
desire... in the reign of the signifier' {The Four Fundamental Concepts of 
Psychoanalysis, New York: Norton, 1978, p. 256). 

19 See Michael Balint, Amour primaire el technique psychanalytique (Paris: Payot, 1972). 

20 See 'Identification', in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, p. 105. 

21 'Therefore the subject becomes conscious of his desire in the other, by means of 
the other's image, which presents him with the spectre of his own mastery' (Jacques 
Lacan, Seminaire I, Les Ecrits techniques de Freud, Paris: Seuil, 1975, p. 178). 

22 '[The imaginary position of desire] is conceivable only to the extent that a guide 
may be found beyond the imaginary, at the level of the symbolic plane, the legal 
exchange that can be embodied only on the basis of verbal exchange among human 

Freud and Love: Treatment and Its Discontents 271 

beings. The guide that rules the subject is the ego ideal' (ibid., p. 162). And this 
is true even if 'love is a phenomenon taking place on the level of the imaginary 
and provoking a real subduction of the symbolic, a kind of annulment or perturbation 
of the ego ideal' (loc. cit.). 

23 I shall return to the metaphor; see chapter VI of Histoires d'amour. 

24 The Ego and the Id, p. 31. 

25 G. W. F. Hegel, Science de la logique (Paris: Vrin, .1970), pp. 385-6. 

26 See Martin Heidegger, Holzwege, Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1950; French transla- 
tion Chemms qui ne menent nulle part, Paris: Gallimard, 1962. (There is no collected 
English translation of the essays in this book.) 

27 See chapter V of Histoires d'amour. 

28 Totem and Taboo in Standard Edition, vol. XIII, p. 153. 

29 See Moses and Monotheism, in Standard Edition, vol. XXIII, p. 110. 

30 See Histoires d'amour, Chapter IV, 1, 'Dieu est Agapg\ 

31 The Ego and the Id, in Standard Edition, vol. XIX, p. 31. 

32 See my Powers of Horror: an essay on abjection (New York: Columbia University 
Press, 1982). 

Translated by Leon S. Roudiez 


Why the United States? 

This discussion between Julia Kristeva, Marcelin Pleynet and Philippe Sollers 
was originally published in 1977 as the introduction to a special issue of Tel 
Quel (no. 71/73) on the United States, and first translated as 'The U.S. Now: 
a Conversation' in October, 6 (Fall 1978). A few references to this 'American' 
issue of Tel Quel have been cut from the new translation published here. 

Like the following essay on dissidence, 'Why the United States?' is reprinted 
here as an example of Kristeva's more directly political discourse. Marking 
as it does the shift away from the Tel Quel group's fascination with China and 
their tentative turn towards the USA as a possible symbol of the post-modern 
era, this text has become extremely controversial, at least among English- 
speaking readers of Kristeva. Some have accused her of abdicating her left-wing 
politics when confronted with the glamour of monopoly-capitalism, while 
others, such as Jacqueline Rose, have stressed the fact that Kristeva's descrip- 
tion of the USA as a 'non-verbal' society is not to be taken as an uncritical 
celebration of a 'semiotic' culture: it is after all Kristeva who in her final 
intervention warns against the psychotic violence which may lurk under this 
surface of 'non-verbalization'. (See Jacqueline Rose, 'Julia Kristeva: Take Two' 
in her Sexuality in the Field of Vision, London: NLB/Verso, 1986.) 

To a non-French European reader, the most striking aspect of this text may 
well be its extreme ethnocentrism: throughout the conversation, the words 
'France' (and even 'Paris') and 'Europe' seem to be used more or less as 
synonyms. The American reader, on the other hand, may well feel scandalized 
at the Parisian trio's somewhat condescending description of the non-verbalized 
American void, which supposedly is crying out to be filled with the discourse 
of European (French?) intellectuals. In spite of these misgivings, or perhaps 
because of them, the essay throws much light on the mode of political thought 
dominant in the Tel Quel group in 1977, a mode striking for its insistence on 
the textual (linguistic) nature of political and historical change. 

The opening reference to Kristeva's previously published essay 'From Ithaca 
to New York' refers to a text which first appeared in Promesse (no. 36-7) in 
the spring of 1974 (i.e., at the time of Kristeva's visit to China), and which 

Why the United States? 273 

was reprinted (with some changes) in Polybgue (Paris: Seuil, 1977, pp. 495-515). 
Already containing many of the observations Kristeva makes in 'Why the 
United States?', the earlier essay is more deeply involved in the burning issues 
of its day such as the Yom Kippur war and Watergate. Presenting as it does 
a series of reflections on the growing women's movement in the USA and the 
situation of intellectual women in that country, 'From Ithaca to New York' 
is of special interest to feminists. 

Why the United States? 

MP Since Julia is the only one here who has already written and 
published something about one of her visits to the United States, perhaps 
she could begin by telling us how she re-reads her text 'From Ithaca 
to New York', reprinted in Polylogue. That is, how does she read it 
today, after several other trips to New York and the United States? 

JK I feel that my vision of the United States isn't entirely French and 
may consequendy appear too idiosyncratic. In fact, I went to the United 
States with almost the same desire for discovery and change that took 
me from Bulgaria to Paris ten years ago. More and more I had the 
impression that what was happening in France - due to the various 
developments of a Gaullism in its death-throes on the one hand and 
the growing power of the so-called masses or petit-bourgeois masses 
on the other - was making the history of the European continent predict- 
able, so that if one were interested in the breaks within history, culture 
and time, one had to change continents. I also tried to experience such 
a change through my interest in China, which I viewed as an anarchist 
outbreak within Marxism. But the trip to China finally made me realize 
that this was really a re-run, somewhat revised perhaps, but a re-run 
none the less, of the same Stalinist or let's say Marxist- Stalinist model. 
It was therefore out of curiosity and the desire to discover some other 
solution to the impasse of the West that made me fly off twice to the 
United States, and then finally a third time for a longer stay. It was 
a journey ) but not necessarily 'to the end of night'. That is, it was not 
necessarily accompanied by an apocalyptic or desperate vision, but was 
rather made in an attempt to understand, perhaps also from a particular 
and subjective point of view. 

274 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

Two things struck me during my first brief visits, and these became 
accentuated during the semester I spent at Columbia University. First, 
I feel that American capitalism - which everyone agrees is the most 
advanced and totalizing in the world today - far from undergoing a 
crisis (and yet this was during crisis periods, notably that of the Yom 
Kippur war, the energy crisis, the Watergate crisis, the crisis of the 
presidential election last autumn) is a system of permanent recupera- 
tion, of patching-up of crisis. Here I don't mean to be pejorative, but 
rather want to convey a sense of the most livable possibility of survival. 
I seemed to perceive in the economic and political logic of America a 
new way of dealing with the law, with the increasingly brutal economic 
and political constraints which are inevitable in any society, and all the 
more so in a technocratic system. The question is to know 'how to deal 
with' this economic or political constraint. In both Western and Eastern 
Europe, our way of doing things, which is perhaps the result of a certain 
religious or state tradition, consists of 'dealing with' a constraint by 
confronting it with its antithesis. But, to invert Spinoza's phrase, as 
everyone knows every negation is a definition. An 'opposing' position 
is therefore determined by what is being opposed. And in this way we 
arrive at two antithetical systems which internalize and reflect one 
another's qualities: on the one hand, a government, the conservative 
and established System; and on the other hand, an opposition which 
ultimately has the same statist, collectivist and totalitarian flaws. All 
this has culminated in the twentieth-century dramas of Fascism and 
Stalinism, which work together like the well-oiled routine of an old 

In America, though, it seems to me that opposition to constraint is 
not unique, isolated and centralized, but is polyvalent in a way that under- 
mines the law without attacking it head-on. 

It can be said that this polyvalence, that is, the multiplicity of social, 
ethnic, cultural and sexual groups, of discourse - in brief, the multi- 
plicity of subdivisions that are economic, cultural, political, artistic, 
and so on - ends up 'ghettoizing' the opposition, since for each opposi- 
tion an enclave is created where it stagnates. There is in fact the risk 
of encountering the enormous difficulties and considerable repression 
which this type of system can generate. But there is also a positive aspect, 
which is precisely that it avoids developing into paranoia and the con- 
frontation of two laws, each equally sure of itself but fascinated by, 
and internalizing, the other. 

Why the United States? 275 

The second striking feature of the United States which seems 
interesting to me in relation to European culture and society is the place 
of artistic practice. It is a place that is by definition marginal, as in every 
society. But it concerns a marginality that is also polyvalent: 'aesthetic' 
experiments are more frequent and more varied than in Europe. There 
are many more enclaves of painting, music, dance, etc. Obviously, this 
numerical factor would be insignificant if one did not bear in mind the 
peculiar nature of these aesthetic practices. 

For they are non-verbal. The Americans today seem to me to excel 
in any research into gesture, colour and sound, which they pursue in 
great depth and scope and much more radically than is done in Europe. 
I attended several exhibitions or performances, both of the recognized 
avant-garde and of the underground in the lofts and cellars of the Village 
which attract many young people, and I felt as though I were in the 
catacombs of the early Christians. This metaphor means first of all that 
there is a passionate search, and a feeling of discovery, even if it 
sometimes involves discovering the bicycle a century late. One senses 
the passage of Surrealism or of Artaud in these discoveries, but it's done 
with a great deal of passion and commitment. It is none the less a 
metaphor because this American art does not correspond exactly to the 
historical reality to which I'm referring. For in the beginning is not 
the Word, at any rate not in this particular beginning. They know what 
they do: they don't have a verbal, that is to say, conscious and analytical 
(in the naive sense of analysis) connection to what they are doing. When 
they do say something in these performances, it does not correspond 
to what is done in gesture, colour and sound. 

Two results are produced by this non-correspondence. On the one 
hand, there is an interest in all the more-or-less avant-garde or modernist 
forms of discourse to be found in Europe, including those in philosophy 
and the social sciences. I sometimes felt, especially in my classes, that 
even though I was using a specialized language, I was speaking to people 
who knew what it was about, even if they found it difficult. It corres- 
ponded to a lived experience, whether pictorial, gestural or sexual. Thus, 
despite their naivety, the American audience gives the European 
intellectual the impression that there is something he can do on the other 
side of the Atlantic, namely that he can speak in a place where it 
[9a] doesn't speak. This entails, of course, speaking like a psycho- 
analytic patient: into a void which returns little more than a dim 
presence and the punctuations of sounds, colours and gestures. It is very 

276 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

stimulating, I think, for any intellectual work; in any case, it was 
for mine. 

The second consequence of the fact that the most radical practices 
are non-verbal is that there is no great American literature today, apart 
from a few exceptions, which are in any case of English origins, and 
nostalgically oriented towards a Kafkaesque Jewish humour. American 
literature is perhaps Cage, perhaps Bob Wilson, or even - why not? 
- Wolfson's The Schizo and Language; it is therefore something which 
opens up the word to the unspeakable, with all the risks of psychosis 
that this breakthrough implies. 

In fact the American culture that interests me (which in its own way 
is not Catholic, but more Protestant, and for that very reason interesting 
to the ethnologist that one becomes as soon as one sets foot on another 
continent) is the culture that confronts psychosis and sublates it. I think 
this is the fundamental problem for twentieth-century culture, one that 
will only become more pronounced here in Catholic Western Europe 
and will force us to think of other forms. They may not necessarily 
be the American ones, but I'm convinced that these new forms can't 
develop in ignorance of the response that America has given to the crises 
of identity and rationality. 

A great deal can also be said about the American sense of time, the 
American notion of history which seems to question the linearity of 
our contemporary history. European societies obviously have an evolu- 
tionary perspective: since there are elections certain changes in historical 
cycles will take place. I don't think the late nineteenth-century historical 
view has ever been more influential, even if it is contested by some 
philosophical schemes, and in some areas of research. We've had the 
bourgeoisie, now it's the turn of 'socialism' and 'progress'. Well, I think 
that American time short-circuits this evolutionist vision because it 
entails a split history: on the one hand, there is in fact the evolutionism 
dictated by the development of the links between production and repro- 
duction; but on the other hand, this evolutionism has as its underlying 
base a conjunction of several temporalities. Since this country is made 
up of emigrants (Jews, English, French, Central Europeans, Blacks, 
Indians, etc.), various individual ways of experiencing time and history 
intersect. The linearity dictated by the economic development seems 
never to correspond exactly to this religious and cultural base, and it 
is this non-correspondence that produces flashes that challenge the evolu- 
tionism and faith in a progress that none the less exists. For this faith 

Why the United States? 277 

does indeed exist, all the more so since, through the development both 
of economic and cultural exchange, American thought and culture is 
contaminated by European culture and, in particular, by Marxism. One 
sometimes feels that a Marxist discourse of the sort experienced in 
Europe in the 1950s is returning in the American university. And, in 
a sense, this is quite logical. The two great powers inevitably influence 
each other. In Russia this produces Bukovsky, and in America, the 
Marxist academic, though the gifts are not of equal value. However, 
even in these communicating vessels, I feel that this linear rationality, 
with its over-dogmatic Marxism, is confined to a limited context, thanks 
to the split American temporality I have mentioned. The cultural, 
technical and religious base is so riotous and multi-faceted that the non- 
truth that may obtain in a linearizing evolutionism or in the gratifying 
populism of dogmatic Marxism doesn't seem to be able to increase its 

Finally, I was very aware of the problem of the intellectuals. The 
United States, as it were, does not accord the status to the intellectual 
that exists in Europe where, if we go back very far, it probably derives 
from a kind of clergy, but where it essentially comes from the French 
Revolution's idea of the intellectual as a mediator between the different 
political parties and thought. In fact, we can deplore the absence of 
this type of intellectual in the United States, since ideas consequently 
remain confined to universities or to areas set aside for them, but don't 
seem to reach the political class. A very sharp clevage exists, in which 
the intellectuals, apart from the Marxists, don't have ideas that can be 
politicized. Instead, it is positivism which is the prerogative of the 
academic intellectual, for he doesn't see himself as entrusted with a 
political mission, and when he does, it's under the auspices of Marxism, 
which is a recent trend, a return of everything McCarthyism repressed. 

But on the other hand, this sort of American intellectual, by the very 
limitation of his positivism, brings out certain problems of the belief 
in politics or in the kind of politics espoused by the European intellec- 
tual. Today in particular, due to a sort of permanent feeling of guilt 
in relation to politics, the latter is abandoning his specificity and trans- 
forming every debate into a kind of anti-intellectual witch-hunt, or into 
coffee-house chitchat, reducing every discussion to the level of electoral 

The limitations of the intellectual's role in the United States, which 
I incidentally consider unsatisfactory, therefore serve to foregound some 

278 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

of the problems in the overexpansion of the 'intellectual vocation' of 
the Europeans which now is sinking its own ship, as it were. 

MP I feel that the American scene is always a lot more unsettled and 
complex than is assumed when one tries to understand it. Don't you 
think that precisely the relationship between the American intellectual 
and political classes entails exchanges and links of a different order from 
those found in France, of a completely different order but which as 
such are far from insignificant? I'm thinking particularly of the fact 
that the American intellectual class, the academic bigwigs, are for the 
most part specialists. Universities turn out specialists, and very fre- 
quently the link between the intellectual and political classes passes 
through this type of specialization, which is totally unknown here. That 
is, over here intellectuals are called upon to argue about ideas; they 
can't produce real, objective knowledge and take concrete action. I feel 
that when the political class in the United States calls upon intellectuals 
- which it does constantly - it calls upon them as specialists, which 
implies a completely different relation to the intellectual and political 
functions. This ought to be examined from a European point of view! 

JK The role of the intellectual is defined differently in each case. 
The intellectual you describe is in fact the technician, the specialist in 
foreign affairs, the Sinologist or economist, etc. That does exist, and 
in fact this sort of collaboration between the government and the intel- 
lectuals would be the actual equivalent of a graduate of the Ecole 
Nationale d 'Administration or of the Ecole Polytechnique working for 
the French government. But in the United States the intellectual doesn't 
cook up ideas, or act as a go-between for the masses, the media, the 
political parties and learning, as in Europe. Another example of the 
gap between research and politics in the United States, this time from 
the Left: a linguist can develop the most Cartesian ideas in his own 
scholarship, but once he becomes politically involved, he doesn't work 
for the government in a technical capacity, but commits himself to the 
Left. He even considers himself an anarchist, although that doesn't affect 
his thought. Whereas the European intellectual, at least in recent years, 
will try to question his own theory if his political practice is already 
out of line with certain kinds of rationality. We've seen notions of truth, 
knowledge, identity, etc. challenged as a result of socio-political 
experience. In the United States, on the contrary, I have the impression 
that notions of Truth, law and the University have remained sacrosanct. 

Why the United States? 279 

They remain the law or the laws remain there. If nevertheless they are 
weaker than here it's because there are so many of them. It's not because 
they're attacked head-on and pursued in depth as, for example, would 
be done by any French intellectual shaken up in May 68. It's because 
they're multiplied. It's another way, not necessarily more radical in 
terms of thought, but more efficient in terms of society as a whole. Their 
system therefore even accords a place to European intellectuals, 
including all their radicalism. 

PhS Gin one hypothesize about the future of psychoanalysis in the 
United States? 

JK I don't want to hypothesize. I can only give my impressions of 
the current state of affairs. 

I shall say a few words about psychoanalysis since you've asked the 
question. I think that psychoanalysis has quite simply fallen through 
over there. What does that mean? It has become normative, and the 
different psychoanalytical factions I could observe and listen to, even 
if they're now becoming interdisciplinary and beginning to pay more 
attention to sociology as well as psychoanalysis, to linguistics as well 
as to psychoanalysis, etc., have an outlook that is still dominated by 
classical, scientific and superegotistic rationalism, when they aren't 
spiritualist. I wonder if psychoanalysis hasn't escaped them because 
of Protestantism on the one hand and, on the other hand, because they 
have no language, since English, in America, is a code. Can psycho- 
analysis be implanted in a code? It's a shame, in fact it's a great disaster, 
the 'plague' as Freud said. At the same time one may wonder whether 
this failure doesn't prepare the way for certain paths which go beyond 
psychoanalysis. Obviously there's no 'beyond' if there hasn't already 
been psychoanalysis; it can't be traversed without first being entered. 
But the eruption of pornography, the various forms of mysticism, the 
proliferation of trans-psychotic aesthetic experiments, etc., which, while 
troubling and while perhaps being so many dead ends, may also be ways 
of dealing with sublimation in a manner different from that of psycho- 
analysis, which, as we've all too frequently seen, produces its own 
particular chapels and dead ends. 

PhS The United States is 1776, something that doesn't belong to the 
Jacobin model of the French Revolution. If we look at what was happen- 
ing in the nineteenth century, if we re-read Baudelaire's important text 

280 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

on Edgar Poe, it's very clear that the adventure of thought, the literary 
adventure, the adventure of the American avant-garde at that time was 
not so different from what in the nineteenth century was to affect all 
of Europe: that is to say, that the discovery or manifestation of an 
'abnormal' and particularly critical subjectivity was to be rejected by 
this American progressive, positivist nineteenth century, in full expan- 
sion. Now, what happened in the twentieth century with the First and 
Second World Wars? Strangely, we witnessed a completely spectacular 
grafting of the different subjective liberations which had erupted in 
Europe as dissidence or marginality. Naturally, I see the main graft 
at the time of the Second World War as being the draining of margin- 
alized European personalities into an American exile. Let's call it the 
grafting of the European avant-garde on to the United States, even 
though the problem is complex, involving Schoenberg and a great many 
others. I think this is very important and we must return to it. Let's 
also call it the grafting of Surrealism on to the United States during 
the war. 

This grafting, it seems to me, is at the source of what we call American 
art. Like it or not, the very rapid development of an American art dates 
from this point, whether we're talking about painting or gesture, or 
the creation of an atmosphere bordering on something like the material- 
ization of an unconscious which might have been experienced in Europe. 

This situation seems to me to have been rapid and explosive, and 
to have gone unperceived in Europe, in France, before, say, the 1960s. 
We had the cold war, a kind of pohtico-military planetary freeze, and 
gradually, around 1960, this memory grafted on to the United States 
resurfaced, and has ever since posed a question for Europe. Now the 
problem is whether the kind of delegation, or extensive breeding-ground 
exported to the United States as the result of Fascism and Stalinism 
can be re-examined in the light of what may emerge in Europe as the 
archaeology of our twentieth-century history. And here again no doubt 
we face some burning questions: the question of Freud in 1909; the 
introduction of Jungian ideas; the multivalent resistance of religious 
attitudes which, despite their decentralizing and polymorphic aspects, 
remain resistant. And there is also the problem of knowing what 
American intellectuals and academics now accept as the archaeology 
of the history of this graft which in a way has been indirectly made 
on them and which presupposes a loss at some point. That is, what 
kind of philosophy or theory of language, or method of reading or 

Why the United States? 281 

interpretation are they interested in today? And what interests them 
on the level of a deep understanding of the great avant-garde phenomena 
of the twentieth century, such as Joyce, for example, or Artaud, or 
whoever you wish. That's my question. At the moment, we're at a very 
important turning-point, such that this possibility of creative non- 
verbalization, that is, this passage through colour, sound, gesture, etc. 
based on an absence of verbalization, makes it necessary to ask one 
question: Why is there this gap in verbalization? Is it still productive? 
It has been in the past, and still is today. And who's going to be able 
to begin to speak within it, or not? 

JK. It's difficult to make an indictment. That's not our aim. We ought 
to find out what it is we are looking for in them. It's not so much 'why 
do they do this and not that?', as 'why do they interest us?'. Isn't it 
because they make an appeal to us by their gap in verbalization? And 
when facing this void we feel we are being called, perhaps not exactly 
chosen, but at least called. 

PhS In questioning the meaning of this graft we address a displaced 
memory. We live among the ruins of Stalinism and Fascism, among 
the ruins of a Europe ravaged by them. 

JK I completely agree. As for the graft, it undoubtedly took place, 
but it produced something entirely different from what was to be 
expected. They took Artaud and Duchamp but produced Pollock, which 
couldn't have happened in either France or Moscow. So there's some- 
thing specific and interesting in America. They may be getting bogged 
down today now they take anything and everything from Parisian intel- 
lectual cuisine, but in fact there's no mainstream in their choice. 
Obviously in so far as there are institutions, they're tempted to choose 
what is valued in French institutions, and it then goes out of fashion 
in the analogous American institution. A philosopher who's in fashion 
at the rue d'Ulm will be in fashion at Yale for two years, and that will 
upset his colleagues. But these phenomena get lost in such a variety 
that in the end they don't involve the same diktat of styles as they do 
in Paris. And then they borrow from intellectual masters to make 
ideologies as ephemeral as they are unrecognizable. It is an immense 
machine turning Western discourse into refuse. This refuse may generate 
a new burst of energy. But for the moment I see this energy only in 
sounds, colours and gestures, not words. If something other than waste 

282 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

is to be produced on the verbal level, it obviously must be a two-way 
operation. I think it's important not to exalt or condemn New York, 
but to appreciate the reciprocal benefits of the exchange. New York 
and Paris are specific places, and we shouldn't criticize one in the name 
of the other. The way in which one reciprocally illuminates the other 
will perhaps get round those problems which are too great. I think that 
our aim here is therefore precisely to indicate how a graft can flourish 
in different soils. 

MP The question is perhaps precisely the kind of vision we offer of 
America. Obviously, I think our view isn't a French one, nor un- 
doubtedly is it American, because it isn't a national view. I'm very much 
interested in the fact that the exile of artists and intellectuals to the 
United States is not only that of the Surrealists; I mean it's not only 
the exile of the French, it's the exile of all of Europe. It's the exile of 
Austria, Germany, Italy, France, and it's also the exile of certain English 
intellectuals. I think something extremely significant is happening in 
that respect, at all events for me. 

It's certainly no accident that those who were chased out of Europe 
by Stalinist and Hitlerian Fascism and those who were chased out of 
other parts of the world by dictatorial regimes found a home in the 
United States, and I think one might perhaps try to explain how this 
came about. 

There are obviously several points to raise. There is the point that, 
as a state and as a country, the United States is actually completely new, 
composed of many ethnic groups and languages, whose very multiplicity 
does not manage to provide the state with the same repressive structures 
it can have elsewhere in the world. I don't mean that the American 
state isn't repressive, but that its form is constantly eroded and divided 
by the various forms it must assume. That is, everyone knows that there 
are more Poles in Chicago than in Warsaw; that the Chinese colony 
in the United States is enormous; that in New York, Jews occupy an 
important place in the artistic and intellectual milieux and even in 
politics; that around the Village, the Italian colony is very important; 
and that politically, all these different European, extra-American 
references must survive and find a place. I think it's in this context 
that what I would be tempted to define as modern art can survive. I 
know that when I first went to the United States in 1966, 1 left behind 
a French situation which seemed completely closed and blocked from a 

Why the United States? 283 

cultural point of view. That is, it was academic, or at best attempting 
to struggle not with its real history, the history of the twentieth century, 
but with a completely academic cultural anachronism. And when I 
arrived in the United States I saw that what was happening there 
corresponded to an experience of modernity that Europe didn't suspect 
at all then. 

JK Was it unknown here for political reasons? 

MP For many reasons. It was unknown for political reasons, or for 
historical reasons; that is, if one considers Europe up until 1960, it was 
both economically and intellectually ruined. If I think about what was 
becoming most lively around 1955, say in literature, in Europe, I should 
be forced to say the New Novel. Now it's pretty obvious that if I situate 
the New Novel in the history of modern culture, it's something pro- 
gressive in 1955, something completely reactive to an academic fabric 
established in France after the war. There are economic and political 
reasons, precise historical and precise cultural reasons for that. 

PhS One mustn't forget in all this that the propaganda internalized 
from the various European fascisms from the 1930s on had an enormous 
effect in preparing the violently anti-modern climate, a modernity which 
the United States could represent at the time. One only has to re-examine 
the texts, the declarations of everything then that professed to be ever 
more French, ever more traditional, ever more anti-jazz, anti-whatever, 
anti-black. One must also keep in mind the close alliance and osmosis 
between Stalinism and Fascism regarding anything that could be con- 
sidered, once again, degenerate, cosmopolitan, Jewish, etc. One thing 
Europeans don't realize, fail to consider in their biography and evaluate 
very badly within themselves, then, is the extent to which they have 
internalized and countersigned these archaisms - in the beginning, more 
or less through their families, and later, more or less through the social 
fabric itself. Even if these people think, quite wrongly, that they haven't 
swallowed the values of Fascisim and Stalinism, they have totally 
ingested them, they have physically assimilated them. I can certify that, 
for a French intellectual, the discovery of jazz after the war at the age 
of 14, for example, or blond tobacco, something that came practically 
from another planet since we were born under the boot of the Germans, 
or P6tain, or the castrated Pdtainist body as it continues to function 
in French society with its castrated Stalinist alter ego - that sort of 

284 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

postwar flavour in France, that kind of sensuality . . . Again, I come back 
to the trumpet of Armstrong or Miles Davis ... jazz was a determining 
factor in my decision to write. . .The spirituals. . .And afterwards, what 
did we experience? We witnessed the attempt to resume this constant 
effect of anti-modern propaganda in Europe. That is, we've all lost a 
great deal of time considering problems about world revolution, the 
unification of thought relative to this revolution, and in our mterminable 
debates on socialism: It is more barbarous? Is it less so here? Will it 
be less so there? etc. And so it goes on. . .We must see that European 
intellectuals misjudge the possibility that a completely different planet 
can exist on the basis of the underground, non-philosophic, non-Greek 
history which was grafted there and began to flicker in their biography 
from the 1960s on. The truth is that many felt guilty, and still feel guilty, 
about going the 'American' way: caught in their language . . .inherited 
centralist pretensions. . .clanishness, factionalism. . .'social' worries 
. . .terror or sanctity of knowledge. . .persistent somnambulistic 'Com- 
munist Partyism', etc. 

JK The cold war in culture has lasted a long time. 

PhS The 'cold war', in fact, is a war that doesn't necessarily take the 
hard, visible forms one might suspect. It's a fabric of propaganda and 
constant resistance organized by generations who wished at any price 
to disguise or justify the nationalist or 'socialist' cancer and their Fascist 
or populist- Stalinist bullshit. They wanted, and continue to want, to 
impose their artisanal, occultish-rustic stupidity - the remains, in 
France, for example, of the result of the degeneration of the 'Enlighten- 
ment' into a profoundly regressive provincial irrational ism. European 
intellectuals, with a few rare exceptions, have failed to grasp the new 
rhythm of the planet as it developed in the USA. They were philosophers, 
rationalists, Mediterraneans, humanists with a big thesis, Aristotelian- 
Platonists, post-Proustians, aphorists, shameful Zhdanovites, refur- 
bished Stendhalians, children of the Third Republic - institutionalized, 
universalized, normalized. In short, lagging very much beind the 
Germans or the Russians in exile. Arcane 17 brings back nothing from 
the United States, and Celine would have done better, after the Voyage, 
to stay in New York. Duchamp should have brought Artaud there by 
force; that way, we wouldn't be reduced to reading exegeses of what 
happened at Rodez, etc. I mean that everything great in Europe had to be 
delirious, to struggle under the weight of atrocious misunderstandings, 

Why the United States? 285 

as Poe had done earlier, over there . . . there was of course the inhuman 
composure of Joyce . . . Perhaps one had to be Irish . . . 

JK It is always difficult to be on the Left and to be interested in 
American culture; one becomes suspect. The 'cold war' of the super- 
structures isn't over. American friends have given me Simone de 
Beauvoir's trip as an example of it. She went to look for the exploited 
workers and the slums she had read about in a novel. She was told that 
this didn't exist any longer, but she didn't believe it. She wanted to 
witness it, to visit it, etc. There's a naive image of America which isn't 
always false, but which can hide the forest. 

MP My perception of America and, to return to what Julia was saying 
before, my perception even of China is based, I think, on a certain type 
of relationship with language, and which I'd define as determined by 
what one could generally call art. That is, during the trip to China I 
constantly experienced two things: what I would call the discourse on 
China, even within China; and what I, as poet and writer, could perceive 
of the flashes and remains of the life of another culture and another 
language. It's more or less the same with the USA for me. What finally 
interests me is the way I can experience things there as more compelling, 
alive, risky and intense than elsewhere. If you start with the observa- 
tion that the French artist has internalized P€tainism, which is more 
or less undeniable, then in my view it's grounded in what I should call 
a subjective economy in which, in a way, art is shocking. In Europe, 
art, and in a certain way modern art, is completely intolerable. It is 
intolerable because it's a luxury, because it's not destined for the masses; 
because it's a demand that supports no system, state, nation or law other 
than its own. And I think that there are in modern art certain extremely 
significant symptoms that could actually be called 'drifting'; during the 
twentieth century there's a drifting of artists and intellectuals throughout 
the world. And this symptom begins to create meaning and a vision. 
When one arrives in the United States one drifts around very easily, 
with a liberty found absolutely nowhere else, simply because, as you 
were saying, there are so many discourses and their subjects are multi- 
ple. You can always leave a milieu, abandon a discourse to enter 
another. . .The resulting impression is one of waste, of useless expense, 
of marginality, all of which are always extremely positive for artistic 
creation, for the life of languages and ideas . . . 

286 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

JK ... if one is a foreigner, that is: it may not be the case for many 
people who live there. If it's true that a person of the twentieth century 
can exist honestly only as a foreigner, then America provides us with 
an example. Those who are established there can live as in any form 
of Pltainist state: there certainly exists a Pltainism of the Middle West. 

MP On this point I don't think you get anywhere through generalities, 
but only through our relationship to the real, through concrete practices, 
which is itself foreign. I must say, as a poet, I feel just as foreign in 

JK I'd be curious to know how you saw this country in terms of your 
own novel, Paradis. What did the United States give to the writing of 
a text like that? 

PhS The fact that I myself was not lagging as far 'behind' my own 
writing as usual. In France, in Europe, I always feel my language is 
ahead of me; it gets less 'bored' than I do. New York, from this point 
of view, means a change of scenery, a completely different syntax, a 
shift from the horizontal to the vertical. In Pahs, for example, you have 
to follow a flatter prose, that is, one must use a syllogistic and appropria- 
tive style. What struck me the most in New York was the information 
stacked up on the ocean. I didn't feel 'sea' or 'river'. The very clear 
sky, the flashing, high-tech architecture, the gaps 'in negative space' 
in the air, the cold water sweeping away the well-stacked electronics 
. . . There's an obviously strong sense of non-sense you can decode in 
details. . .it's not 'expanding', not going anywhere, it's starting from 
minute elements with a blow of the brain, a wash of water. . .1 redis- 
covered my preference for Bordeaux, Amsterdam, London, Venice to 
the thousandth power . . . New Rochelle ... a stimulation of energy, while 
here you must always excuse yourself if you're a little too rhythmic . . . 
Here I often tell myself that Paradis is 'too much'; over there it's 
obviously not enough, never enough, accumulation and expense ... it 
makes you modest. Modest in relation to everything that could still be 
said. Nothing is said, always too much inhibition, too much false 
modesty . . . Much more liberty, it's simple, many fewer cops, in uniform 
or plain clothes. Less on record, less oriented, less centred, less iden- 
tifies ... A land of foreigners as one is or ought to be oneself in relation 
to all language ... As Paradis is an ensemble of limits of discourse set 
to music, a mix of populations of sentences ... As I don't particularly 

Why the United States? 287 

write in French but in 'translation' . . . OK, I felt silently at home, 
that's it. 

MP Don't you think we've been talking around the problem of having 
to redefine a place, if indeed it is a question of place, for the artist and 
intellectual which would be neither what one might want to establish 
in France nor what one can see in the United States? 

JK We begin from the experience of dissident intellectuals. To speak 
of this America means making one more sign indicating the difference 
and the multiplicity each feels in his practice, but it in no ways means 
soliciting identification with a model. 

MP I've been thinking a bit about that. I'm not so interested in 
synthesizing, but I was thinking about that when Sollers raised the 
question of psychoanalysis in the United States and in France, or when 
you referred to the absence of literature in the United States . . . 

JK It's perhaps wrong. . . 

MP No, I don't think it's wrong . . .not in that sense, in any case. I 
thought your remarks about the development of particularly silent arts 
as opposed to verbal ones were absolutely true; that is, American 
psychoanalysis was in a certain way rather regressive: literature seemed 
very anachronistic compared to the great cultural and literary effects 
of the twentieth century and to what can happen in France today. And 
at the same time I was thinking that the forms taken by this non- 
assimilation of psychoanalysis, or of discourse, or the new languages 
of the modern in the United States were, for the moment anyway, 
extremely anarchic and rather difficult to define. (These forms, 
moreover, seem to me to be found most often in a quasi-religious 
domain.) But they seemed at the same time to offer experiments from 
which no conclusions could have been, or can yet be drawn. We don't 
know whether these experiments may not lead to a completely surprising 
modernity tomorrow. In any case, for me they are still rich in poten- 
tiality and meaning. 

PhS For me, a tolerable society is one where the sexual fix [impasse] 
is the most visible. And the sexual fix is nowhere more visible than 
in the United States. Everywhere else the great art of power and its 
pleasures consists of hiding the sexual fix as much as possible. In the 
United States, through multiple channels, through this effervescence, 

288 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

you clearly see the same old sexual fix being trotted out. It ranges from 
the perfectly traditional little puritan family to desperate efforts to 
explore the limits of perversion or psychosis involving an impossible 
relation to perversion. You get a spectacle of the sexual fix. This spec- 
tacle immediately produces religious substitutions aimed at warding it 
off, which means this sexual fix unquestionably coexists with the 
different forms of religion. I don't think any American can imagine 
the reason for this state of affairs. It is a society that experiences this 
fix by demonstrating it, while others enjoy demonstrating it as little 
as possible and behave as though there were some way out of it. It is 
a country that lives on the edge of the new Reason and can't realize it. 

JK Isn't there in all that a deep pessimism with regard to the 'sexual 
relationship'? It's plausible in literature. If you don't have 'formal' 
experiments which explore the word and rediscover its nothingness, 
creating, if possible, a new impetus in the process, you do have a 
common discourse haunted by the demonic. This has produced not only 
Faulkner, but also a writer in many respects American, namely C&ine. 
The New York subway is London Bridge plus the 'emotional subway' 
of Celine. A certain experience of fragmentation and of the sexual fix 
is spoken and enacted in reality. 'Literature' seems weak in the face 
of this urban, social space which is already that of apocalyptic literature. 
The United States is a supermodern society which leaves great areas 
where reality becomes the real, as in the Middle Ages or the Orient . . . 

PhS Outside the United States we usually hear a load of rubbish designed 
to conceal sexual rubbish. In the United States we hear an awful load 
of rubbish that is overtly sexual ... I prefer to hear sexual rubbish rather 
than rubbish designed to conceal sexual rubbish (I don't know if I'm 
making myself clearly understood). Perhaps it's just a foreigner's fleeting 
impression but since it did strike me I'll mention it. It's very obvious 
that in American society, signifiers of money and sexual signifiers have 
a presence and a capacity for repetition that is far greater than elsewhere. 
There's certainly what must be seen as a link, a deep connection, 
between exposing the banknote, making it a meaningful signifier, and 
sexual ideas. I tried to explain this by saying there was an American ideo- 
logy which, contrary to general opinion, reveals itself as fundamentally 
matriarchal. I think it's something completely visible, and actually linked 
to the banknote, to its front and back, if I may put it that way. Having 
said that, it seems to involve a very hesitant stand on sexual difference. 

Why the United States? 289 

JK Yes, but I'm going to play devil's advocate . . .It is precisely the 
fact that the unconscious becomes currency and circulates that makes 
it far less sacrosanct than the Holy Catholic mother. 

MP There are extremely different kinds of repression. There's surely 
the Catholic, and the Protestant in a certain way, and I'd say that the 
Protestant gives me the feeling now of being more religious than the 
Catholic. I feel that repression in the United States feels closer to the 
religious now than in Europe; the religious element isn't so much denied 
in the United States, even among the intellectuals - much, much less 
so than it is in Europe. 

PhS . . . and with good reason. 

MP And for me, in this affair, this business of the relationship between 
sexuality and money seems rather to declare something that is com- 
pletely and obviously true, and (like all truths) wholly understandable, 
and which may even function effectively the day it becomes conscious. 

PhS Certainly, I said that it was positive, and that it demonstrated 
the limits of the social phenomenon itself. That's where it can best be 
observed. You asked me what relationship that has with Paradis, 
assuming that Paradis is the systematic description of all expressible 
limits, of the fact that, after all, one always writes from the immeasurable 
weakness of wanting to be read some day by someone, which is absurd 
. . . Well, assuming that this is indeed an effort to describe all possible 
limits of statements, whether in the form of parody, comedy or in serious 
form, it's clear that this is best represented in the American society 
of today, of which we experience only an archaic subgroup. When we 
say, and rightly, that socialism is unsuccessful capitalism, we always 
risk getting stuck within petty limits and failing to see society as an 
adventure that's both multiple and absurd. We can wonder why this 
self-justification of society and the existence of the species can't be 
perceived critically from the United States. I have this rapid view, but 
I believe they have a real block in not perceiving gratuitousness. By 
gratuitousness I mean the moment where some aspect of sexual dif- 
ference would be touched on in depth and where a banknote could thus 
be destroyed because it no longer meant anything from that point on. 
This doesn't mean that they don't do apparently gratuitous things. 

JK There's a belief in non-gratuitousness best shown, although 
weakly, by the profusion of religions. 

290 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

PhS Religious elements perceptible in the United States are particularly 
weak. I mean you do see that the different sorts of religious, 'mystic' 
investments are rather flat, when it comes to the consistency of the 
experience or of the discourse which articulates it. 

JK Do they seem weak to you because they're not illuminated by 
criticism, because they're presented as they are, with reference only 
to the texts? 

PhS No, I find them weak in that they have no language, as it were, 
no relief, no deep, subjective penetration. It is here that I immediately 
see something that I find parodic and naive. One doesn't transcend 
Catholicism as easily as all that. 

JK But aren't you asking statistically large groups to have an experience 
of language which is available only to a few? Is middle-class American 
spiritualism any more inane than the Auvergnats at church and at the 
healer's? Moreover, even the modern spiritualism which is making a 
revival here can be considered an American graft. . .this spiritualism 
also remains extremely naive. 

PhS My remarks were insidiously directed towards the American 
mother. This raises a question that seems important to me if you want 
to assess the involvement of intellectuals and artists in the non-verbal, 
as we've said. That remains, as everywhere, no doubt, infantile and 

MP Don't you think that this naivety and the ultimate simplicity of 
the legislative structure in the United States, and in a certain way the 
fact that these subjective and objective structures are so simple, don't 
you think that this is also what allows to a certain extent for the place 
of marginality? Namely, that structures are so simple and classic that 
they cannot control the entire social body, that they allow part of it 
to keep control and autonomy, and that this autonomous, non- 
institutionalized sector will ultimately produce interesting developments, 
though not necessarily the most interesting ones. 

JK Nothing proves that everything there is right. I wonder about the 
distress I feel, faced with this weakness and naivety. You begin by 
judging it, and then you wonder if this naivety is not precisely a way 
of showing the futility of sexual relationships, the emptiness of these 
relationships and the lack of deep convictions. 

Why the United States? 291 

PhS I think that what you 're presenting as a conscience of humanity, 
and therefore as a sort of lucidity, is in fact resistance. One shouldn't 
be in too much of a hurry to say: 'there is no sexual relationship'. That 
can be the form used by someone who's defending himself against what 
he might actually discover through an illusion. Sometimes you learn 
more from an illusion than from knowing in advance that it won't get 
you anywhere. 

There is thus the very strong and consistent impulse to exhibitionism, 
to act out the exhibitionist impulse. It seems to be situated between 
the levels of religious discourse, which I call weak, and of sexual 
discourse, which I call naive. Between these two poles an enormously 
exhibitionistic discourse emerges as a form of sublimation. But we seem 
to agree that it's characterized at the same time by a kind of relative 
aphasia. These are discourses of exhibitionism which cannot explain 
themselves through verbal articulation and which, therefore, cannot 
be judged in language. It's a very interesting phenomenon, I feel, but 
it clearly points to a lack of perspective on this exposure as a form of 
spectacle. This doesn't at all mean that the spectacle isn't interesting. 

JK We're making two types of observations here, one analytic, the 
other sociological. On the analytic level, it's obvious that this lack of 
verbalization can be resistance. The proof lies in its silence, in its 
expenditure of exuberant activity. It is a society where people are always 
on the move, getting from one place to another, working. Skyscrapers 
are constructed, satellites are built, they are ceaselessly rising up higher, 
and all crises are digested. There's a kind of immediate acting out of 
the drive which can also be psychotic (hence the violence, the murders). 
One question: doesn't this weakened verbalization open up other ways 
towards other sublimations? In fact, although originating in European 
society and thought, America poses problems for our religions and sense 
of reason precisely in those areas where we experience our own crises. 
Perhaps it also gives us some different answers. 

Translated by Sedn Hand 


A New Type of Intellectual: 
The Dissident 

Originally published as an editorial in Tel Quel in 1977 (no. 74, Winter 1977, 
pp. 3-8) under the title 'Un nouveau type d'intellectuel: le dissident', this 
article is almost contemporary with 'Why the United States?'. 

In this short essay Kristeva puts the case for a new form of political engage- 
ment among intellectuals, an engagement that would escape the old master- 
slave dialectics outlined by Hegel. In her description of the new politics of 
marginality, she indicates how a move away from the purely verbal level of 
politics (mentioning colour, sound and gesture as alternatives) would mobilize 
the forces necessary to break up the symbolic order and its law. The article, 
however, does not reject law and society; rather it hopes for a new law and 
a different society. Drawing on the experience of marginality and exile, whether 
physical or cultural, the intellectual can still spearhead a certain kind of subver- 
sion of Western bourgeois society. For Kristeva, there are three groups of 
intellectual dissidents (the word is chosen with direct reference to the dissident 
movements in the Soviet bloc): the intellectual who attacks political power 
direcdy (thus inevitably remaining within the very discourse of power that 
he is out to undo); the psychoanalyst whose major counterpart is religion; and 
the experimental writer who is out to undermine the law of symbolic language. 
In addition to these three groups, there is the subversive potential of women. 
Kristeva here gives a brief and lucid outline of her analysis of the position 
of women within the symbolic order. This article provides a valuable example 
of Kristeva's political thought in the late 1970s. 

A New Type of Intellectual: The Dissident 

Whether seen from the point of view of the Gramscian 'organic 
intellectual', our portrayal of the intellectual in the modern world is 

A New Type of Intellectual: The Dissident 293 

dependent on an insuperable opposition between the masses and the 
individual, an opposition which is governed by the master-slave dialectic 
and which generates pity and guilt. Whether or not the master is the 
Greatest Number and Everyone's Idea of Good, this cannot hide the 
fact that this dichotomy induces a kind of pro-slavery mentality in the 
intellectual, who represents the supreme product of the systematic 
conjunction of Christianity and capitalist production. The intellectual 
perceiving himself as the guardian of supposedly universal thought, 
private property and private goods poured back into public resources 
- these are just some of the stages marking the rocky road from the 
library to the political party. 

The prominent events of the twentieth century do not seem to have 
shaken the intellectual. So far, only bitterness and regret have been 
felt over the crisis in social groups, the decline of the family and the 
nation, or religion and the State (as seen in the difficulties faced by 
the paternal function), or the codes of sublimation and law, and the 
ensuing advent of Fascism and Stalinism. There has been no radical 
analysis of the symbolic and political causes of these phenomena, let 
alone a fundamental questioning of the relationship of the individual 
to the masses, and, a fortiori, of the intellectual to society. Precisely 
because of this lack of analysis and questioning, we can see that the 
role of the Western intellectual has been reduced to that of patching 
up the social groups. The intellectuals (a separate sociological entity 
made necessary by the present development of productive forces) have 
used their superior historical perspective inherited from the nineteenth 
century to devote themselves to a cause whose ideal of social and 
economic equality is evident but which serves both to swallow up the 
particular characteristics of intellectual work and to perpetuate the myth 
of a successful society whose messianism, when not Utopian, has turned 
out to border on totalitarianism. Whether euro-communist or not, the 
future of Western society will greatly depend on a re-evaluation of the 
relationship of the masses to the individual or intellectual, and on our 
ability to break out of the dialectical trap between these oppositions 
and to recast the whole relationship. 

This recasting had already been outlined by Nietzsche, when he traced 
the genealogy of morals and located the roots of modern revolt in the 
Antichrist. But it surfaces above all in the eruption of the languages 
of modernity. In the wake of a Christianity in a state of terminal crisis, 
one sees only too well how modern art, whether painting, music or 

294 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

literature, is an attempt to achieve sublimation even when it inevitably 
borders on psychosis or mental disorder. But the modern community is 
given a new status by the practice of this independent avant-garde, and 
above all by the spread of underground culture to the masses. There 
is a new synthesis between sense, sound, gesture and colour, the master 
discourses begin to drift and the simple rational coherence of cultural 
and institutional codes breaks down. It is on this background that we 
can perceive a new status of the modem community. In place of the mass 
meeting or the walkabout whose most 'successful* manifestations are 
fascist meetings or socialist realism, these new languages use the group 
to question particular forms of subjectivity or the unconscious. What 
has emerged in our postwar culture, after the wave of totalitarianism, 
is these peculiar kinds of speeches and jouissance directed against the 
equalizing Word, even when it is secular or militant. This is something 
ignored by the machinery of politics, including that on the left, which has 
been caught up in a large history that excludes the specific histories of 
speech, dreams and jouissance. Communal but particular, addressed to all 
and yet carried out by each individual: such is the culture of our age, that 
is, when it is not only an echo-chamber of the past. From this point 
on, another society, another community, another body start to emerge. 

It is the task of the intellectual, who has inherited those 'unproduc- 
tive' elements of our modern technocratic society which used to be called 
the 'humanities', not just to produce this right to speak and behave 
in an individual way in our culture, but to assert its political value. Failing 
this, the function of the intellectual strangely enough turns into one 
of coercion. In the wake of the priest, it is the Marxist and the Freudian 
who today have become these manufacturers of an all-embracing ration- 
ality. W'hen taken out of their own time and space (when no longer 
considered in terms of economic struggle or transference) Marxism and 
Freudianism fill in the gaps and stem all escape, and often become the 
magic password that closes the door and reinforces the belief in a society 
shaped by constraint, thus justifying the obsessional dialectic of the slave. 

It was perhaps inevitable, then, that the dissident function of the 
intellectual should have been asserted by the unemployed of the future, 
those intellectuals without a job or students with no prospects of being 
taken on by any restrictive and bankrupt social 'formations'. If it had 
not been for this situation, the Western intellectual would still have 
too many 'reception facilities' that allow him to feel at home, including 
and perhaps even above all when he is 'in opposition'. 

A New Type of Intellectual: The Dissident 295 

A spectre haunts Europe: the dissident. 

Give voice to each individual form of the unconscious, to every desire 
and need. Call into play the identity and/or the language of the individual 
and the group. Become the analyst of every kind of speech and institution 
considered socially impossible. Proclaim that we reveal the Impossible. 

Perhaps the Paris Commune, as the first and only post-bourgeois 
revolution, displayed this degree of anarchist enthusiasm in its fight 
against all power, beliefs and institutions. 

But an eruption of languages, like that of our own age, has rarely 
produced such a clear awareness of the closed nature of society and its 
safety mechanisms, which range from the group (the Family, the Nation, 
the State, the Party) to its rational technological forms of discourse. 
The intellectual, who is the instrument of this discursive rationality, 
is the first to feel the effects of its break-up: his own identity is called 
into question, his dissidence becomes more radical. 

It is possible to distinguish three types of dissident today. First, there 
is the rebel who attacks political power. He transforms the dialectic 
of law-and-desire into a war waged between Power and Resentment. His 
paranoia, however, means that he still remains within the limits of the 
old master-slave couple. Secondly, there is the psychoanalyst, who 
transforms the dialectic of law-and-desire into a contest between death 
and discourse. His archetypal rival from whom he tries to distance himself 
is religion. For in the endless process by which death and discourse 
beget one another, psychoanalysis sustains itself with a perverse belief 
in limits, and the necessity of a positive attitude: in short, the commu- 
nity. Though it may resemble Judaism when it seeks to transcribe this 
social limit as the split, wound or truth in every speaking being, or 
Christianity when it articulates the jouissance arising from the ability 
to transcend this limit in a resurrection that is as imaginary as it is 
symbolic or real, psychoanalysis and its spiritual spin-offs none the less 
still remain today a site of active dissidence in the face of an all-embracing 
rationality. Thirdly, there is the writer who experiments with the limits 
of identity, producing texts where the law does not exist outside 
language. A playful language therefore gives rise to a law that is over- 
turned, violated and pluralized, a law upheld only to allow a polyvalent, 
polylogical sense of play that sets the being of the law ablaze in a peaceful, 
relaxing void. As for desire, it is stripped down to its basic structure: 
rhythm, the conjunction of body and music, which is precisely what 
is put into play when the linguistic / takes hold of this law. 

296 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

And sexual difference, women: isn't that another form of dissidence? 
When he spoke of law, Hegel distinguished between Human Law 
(that of man, governments and ethics) and Divine Law (that of women, 
families, the worship of the dead and religion). On the side of men, 
the clear laws of conscious existence; on the side of women, the dark 
right of the nether world. We can criticize the old 'master thinker', 
who has already been bombarded from all sides, for this pre-Freudian 
and no doubt highly phallic vision. Let us none the less retain the point 
that ultimate law (Divine Law) becomes instituted through Death. There 
is no law but the law of death. To acknowledge this may help us to 
cause fewer deaths with the law. Freud knew this, since he worked from 
the principle that any society, and consequently the law, is 'founded 
on a common crime'. Even more fundamentally, though, and this is 
a point feminism does not make, it is women who are least afraid of 
death or the law, which is why they administer both. In more modern 
terms, they administer the affairs of that nether world of political law 
represented by the laws of reproduction. Does this mean, then, that 
mothers, at the opposite extreme of dissidence, are the last guarantee 
of sociality, since they ultimately ensure the continuation of the species? 
In this way a woman never participates as such in the consensual law 
of politics and society but, like a slave promoted to the rank of master, 
she gains admission to it only if she becomes man's homologous equal. 
A woman is trapped within the frontiers of her body and even of her 
species, and consequendy always feels exiled both by the general cliches 
that make up a common consensus and by the very powers of generaliza- 
tion intrinsic to language. This female exile in relation to the General 
and to Meaning is such that a woman is always singular, to the point 
where she comes to represent the singularity of the singular - the 
fragmentation, the drive, the unnameable. This is why philosophy has 
always placed her on the side of that singularity - that fragmentation 
prior to name or to meaning which one calls the Daemon - she is 
demonic, a witch. But this fiendish force exiled from meaning can also 
aspire to recognition in another diabolical way: this is why women have 
been swallowed up by the machinery of institutionalized power to the 
extent that today they represent its best hopes (cf . the rise of women 
within the political parties). 

As for the laws of reproduction of the species, here we touch on the 
most difficult and perhaps most risky point raised by the problem of 
women. To query the stability of the female role in the reproduction 

A New Type of Intellectual: The Dissident 297 

of the species is an act that affects the child and therefore ultimately 
calls into question the species itself. But, in fact, are not the great 
problems of our age (from 'madness' to the extreme language of the 
avant-garde or of psychedelic experience) precisely those that question 
the limits of the species? For in this 'right of the nether world' (as Hegel 
described the law of the family and reproduction), a woman or mother 
is a conflict - the incarnation of the split of the complete subject, a 
passion. We still cannot reply to Mallarme's question: What is there to 
say concerning childbirth?, which is probably just as poignant if not more 
so than the famous Che vuoi? which Freud once addressed to a woman. 
After the Virgin, what do we know of a mother's (introspective) speech? 
In this domain, desire (of the child) lays down the law - and here I 
have described a tendency towards paranoia that may well constitute 
the repressed basis of any feminine specificity. But simply through being 
pregnant and then becoming a mother, a woman finds a way that is 
both natural and cultural (it is possibly banal, but it certainly works) 
not to live out this temptation towards paranoia, but to spread it over 
the social body to alleviate the strain. Pregnancy is first of all an 
institutionalized form of psychosis: me or it, my own body or another 
body. It is an identity that splits, turns in on itself and changes without 
becoming other: the threshold between nature and culture, biology and 
language. Subsequently, with the arrival of the child and the start of 
love (perhaps the only true love of a woman for another person, 
embracing the complete range, from Lady Macbeth to self-sacrifice), 
the woman gains the chance to form that relationship with the symbolic 
and ethic Other so difficult to achieve for a woman. If pregnancy is 
a threshold between nature and culture, maternity is a bridge between 
singularity and ethics Through the events of her life, a woman thus 
finds herself at the pivot of sociality - she is at once the guarantee and 
a threat to its stability. 

Under these conditions, female 'creation' cannot be taken for granted. 
It can be said that artistic creation always feeds on an identification, 
or rivalry, with what is presumed to be the mother's jouissance (which 
has nothing agreeable about it). This is why one of the most accurate 
representations of creation, that is, of artistic practice, is the series of 
paintings by De Kooning entitled Women: savage, explosive, funny and 
inaccessible creatures in spite of the fact that they have been massacred 
by the artist. But what if thev had been created by a woman? Obviously 
she would have had to deal with her own mother, and therefore with 

298 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

herself, which is a lot less funny. That is why there is not a lot of female 
laughter to be found (no female Aristophanes or Nietzsche). In any case, 
far from contradicting creativity (as the existentialist myth would still 
have us believe), maternity as such can favour a certain kind of female 
creation, provided the economic constraints are not too heavy, at least 
in so far as it lifts fixations, and circulates passion between life and death, 
self and other, culture and nature, singularity and ethics, narcissism 
and self-denial. Maternity may thus well be called Penelope's tapestry 
or Leibniz's network, depending on whether it follows the logic of 
gestures or of thought, but it always succeeds in connecting up 
heterogeneous sites. 

While a certain feminism continues to mistake its own sulking isolation 
for political protest or even dissidence, real female innovation (in 
whatever social field) will only come about wh en maternity , female 
creation and the link between them are better understood. But for that 
to happen we must stop making feminism into a new religion, under- 
taking or sect and begin the work of specific and detailed analysis which 
will take us beyond romantic melodrama and beyond complacency. 

You will have understood that 1 am speaking the language of exile. 
The language of the exile muffles a cry, it doesn't ever shout. No doubt 
it is for this reason that it produces symptoms which, when written 
by me (as either signifier or signified), are of course, personal, but also 
inevitably become symptoms of the French language. Our present age 
is one of exile. How can one avoid sinking into the mire of common 
sense, if not by becoming a stranger to one's own country, language, 
sex and identity? Writing is impossible without some kind of exile. 

Exile is already in itself a form of dissidence, since it involves uprooting 
oneself from a family, a country or a language. More importantly, it 
is an irreligious act that cuts all ties, for religion is nothing more than 
membership of a real or symbolic community which may or may not be 
transcendental, but which always constitutes a link, a homology, an 
understanding. The exile cuts all links, including those that bind him to 
the belief that the thing called life has A Meaning guaranteed by the 
dead father. For if meaning exists in the state of exile, it nevertheless 
finds no incarnation, and is ceaselessly produced and destroyed in geo- 
graphical or discursive transformations. Exile is a way of surviving in the 
face of the dead father, of gambling with death, which is the meaning 
of life, of stubbornly refusing to give in to the law of death. Throughout 
history, there have been several great generations of non-religious exiles: 

A New Type of Intellectual: The Dissident 299 

- The diaspora of the Jews, up until Spinoza, who mistrusted their 
religion and opened up the way to a Reason that had not yet become 
an object of worship. As Spinoza said: 'The desire born of Reason 
cannot be excessive' (the French Revolution gave the lie to this); 
or 'The knowledge of evil is an inadequate knowledge' (Freud 
disagreed). This was before they joined wholeheartedly in the new 
religion of the Enlightenment, whose universalism began by 
sweeping away all differences and ended up trying to conceal the 
anti-Semitism of the twentieth century. 

- The diaspora of those languages that pluralize meaning and cross 

all national and linguistic barriers, represented by the literature 
of Kafka, Joyce and Beckett, who were in turn prefigured by 
Mallarm6, in spite of his more restrained, more isolated and less 
strident French style. 

- The exiles from the Gulags: some of them retain a certain nostalgia 

for community and law, and find a substitute in orthodox religion 
(Solzhenitsyn); while others are even more desperate and take 
refuge in an irony designed to undermine all law (Bukovsky). 

- Finally, the more Western and better-informed exiles who have 
not experienced the Gulags, and among whom I count myself. I 
am an exile from socialism and Marxist rationality, but far from 
seeing socialism as an impossible hypothesis for the West, as those 
from the Gulag think, I believe on the contrary that it is inevitable 
and consequently something that one can speak to. We must 
therefore attack the very premises of this rationality and this 
society, as well as the notion of a complete historical cycle, and 
dismantle them patiently and meticulously, starting with language 
and working right up to culture and institutions. This ruthless 
and irreverent dismantling of the workings of discourse, thought, 
and existence, is therefore the work of a dissident. Such dissidence 
requires ceaseless analysis, vigilance and will to subversion, and 
therefore necessarily enters into complicity with other dissident 
practices in the modern Western world. 

For true dissidence today is perhaps simply what it has always been: 
thought. Now that Reason has become absorbed by technology, thought 
is tenable only as an 'analytic position' that affirms dissolution and works 
through differences. It is an analytic position in the face of conceptual, 
subjective, sexual and linguistic identity. From this, modern philosophy 

300 Womeriy Psychoanalysis, Politics 

only retains either the notion of a position, in order to offer a specialist 
or totalizing point of view (as in Marxism, Freudianism, Phenomenology 
and various forms of empiricism); or else it retains only the notion of 
analysis as dissolution, and writes in a style similar to that of an outmoded 
avant-garde such as symbolism. Torn between being the guardian of 
the law and that instance which disavows the law, hasn't philosophy 
turned away from thought? 

If it is true that the sudden surge of women and children in discourse 
poses insoluble questions for Reason and Right, it is because this surge 
is also yet another symptom of the Death of Man (with all the intolerable 
consequences that this entails for classical rationality and individuality). 
So the sole sublation of this Death is perhaps not a Resurrection: what 
form could the Transcendence take, if the Beyond has already become 
incarnate in Madness? And it is even less a Renaissance: since the 
enlightened Prince has ended up working for the Politbureau or the 
Corporation. But through the efforts of thought in language, or precisely 
through the excesses of the languages whose very multitude is the only 
sign of life, one can attempt to bring about multiple sublations of the 
unnameable, the unrepresentable, the void. This is the real cutting edge 
of dissidence. 

Translated by Sean Hand 


Psychoanalysis and the Polis 

First given as a paper at 'The Politics of Interpretation' symposium sponsored 
by Critical Inquiry and held at the University of Chicago's Center for Continuing 
Education in the autumn of 1981, this essay was published in Critical Inquiry, 
9, no. 1 (September 1982), and reprinted in an expanded edition of that issue 
edited by W. J. T. Mitchell, entitled The Politics of Interpretation (Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1983, pp. 83-98). References to the original 
context of publication have been retained. 

In this essay, Kristeva distinguishes between two forms of interpretation: 
psychoanalytic and political, the latter apparently used in its original Greek sense 
of 'popular' (politikos) discourse, or discourse for and of the citizens (polites) of 
the city-state (polis). Claiming that psychoanalytic interpretation is at once more 
unsettling and more radical in its implications than the Marxist and deconstruc- 
tive modes of interpretation currently dominant among American academic 
professionals, Kristeva chooses to stress the political implications of the act of 
interpretation itself. The very fact of positing oneself as an interpreter, regardless 
of the actual meaning one finds in one's object, she argues, is rooted in the 
subject's need for reassurance as to the stability of his or her identity. 

Threatened both by delirium and by the totalitarian pleasures of the belief 
in One Meaning, the analyst takes up a position, at once necessary and 
untenable, midway between the classical method of interpretation (where the 
stability of the interpretive position itself was not questioned) and the modern 
deconstruction or eradication of the presumed subject-object relationship 
between interpreter and interpretant. For Kristeva, interpretation is to make 
connections in a way which opens up the field of subjectivity (the subject as 
producer of the field of interpretation). This in itself is not a radically new 
position: Marx and Freud, however, further transformed our understanding 
of the nature of interpretation by turning it into an action: revolution or cure. 

Political and analytical interpretation both seek to read the desires of the 
subject, although the 'political man' focuses on the desire of the masses, and 
the analyst deals with the individual. In so far as the politician catches the 
real desire of the masses, his (or her) interpretation is true, while nevertheless 

302 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

remaining ideological and Utopian. Only the dynamic of the analytic inter- 
pretation, however, goes on to demonstrate the erosion of meaning in the 
discourse of the analysand, pointing to the pressure of heterogeneous forces 
which are essential constituents of language, the meaningless and the 
unnameable. In the same way, the discourse of the analyst will also eventually 
be perceived as language constructed around a void. While political interpreta- 
tion remains caught in the syndrome of the One Meaning, according to 
Kristeva, analysis deflates the fantasies of the subject, showing how they 
founder on the absence of meaning. This is not to say that analytic interpreta- 
tion turns into non-meaning. On the contrary: while indicating the void situated 
precisely at the point where the politician sees the World, it nevertheless weaves 
its own interpretive discourse, designed to provide support for the transference 
without which analysis cannot take place. The purpose of transference, 
however, is eventually to dissolve itself. 

Turning to the works of Celine, well known for his extreme anti-Semitism, 
Kristeva shows how his discourse turns the abject (here defined as the 'locus 
of needs, of attraction and repulsion, from which an object of forbidden desire 
arises'; but see also the introduction to 'Freud and Love') into the object of 
a unifying discourse from which he derives both his own identity and jouissance 
as well as his paranoid urge to exterminate the very object that allows him to 
speak in the first place. The case of Celine shows how such a delirium of 
interpretation can arise from a fascination with the enigma of that which is 
beyond discourse (the abject, desire). This, however, is precisely the terrain 
on which the analyst must place herself: analytic interpretation is only truly 
psychoanalytic when it avoids masking the dangers of interpretation. Instead 
it must open for a series of 'free associations' which allows the analytic inter- 
preter to affirm that the crisis of interpretation is inherent in the symbolic 
function itself. The analyst thus perceives as symptoms all constructions which 
seek to deny this crisis. 

Quoting as she does both Marx and Freud as epigraphs and 'fathers' of a 
new form of interpretation, Kristeva here raises, but does not pursue, the 
question of the relationship between a revolutionary Marxist mode of inter- 
pretation and the therapeutic Freudian mode described in her essay. 

Psychoanalysis and the Polis 

Up until now philosophers have only interpreted the world. The point now 
is to change it. 

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Theses on Feuerbach 

Psychoanalysis and the Polis 303 

The delusions [Wahnbildungen] of patients appear to me to be the equivalents 
of the [interpretive] constructions which we build up in the course of an analytic 
treatment - attempts at explanation and cure. 

Sigmund Freud, 'Constructions in Analysis' 

The essays in this volume convince me of something which, until now, 
was only a hypothesis of mine. Academic discourse, and perhaps 
American university discourse in particular, possesses an extraordinary 
ability to absorb, digest and neutralize all of the key, radical or dramatic 
moments of thought, particularly a fortiori, of contemporary thought. 
Marxism in the United States, though marginalized, remains deafly 
dominant and exercizes a fascination that we have not seen in Europe 
since the Russian Proletkult on the 1930s. Post-Heideggerian 'de- 
constructivism', though esoteric, is welcomed in the United States as 
an antidote to analytic philosophy or, rather, as a way to valorize, 
through contrast, that philosophy. Only one theoretical breakthrough 
seems consistently to mobilize resistances, rejections and deafness; 
psychoanalysis - not as the 'plague' allowed by Freud to implant itself 
in America as a 'commerce in couches' but rather as that which, with 
Freud and after him, has led the psychoanalytic decentring of the 
speaking subject to the very foundations of language. It is this latter 
direction that I will be exploring here, with no other hope than to awaken 
the resistances and, perhaps, the attention of a concerned few, after 
the event [apres coup]. 

For I have the impression that the 'professionalism' discussed through- 
out the 'Politics of Interpretation' conference is never as strong as when 
profesionals denounce it. In fact, the same pre-analytic rationality unites 
them all, 'conservatives', and 'revolutionaries' - in all cases, jealous 
guardians of their academic 'chairs' whose very existence, I am sure, 
is thrown into question and put into jeopardy by psychoanalytic dis- 
course. I would therefore schematically summarize what is to follow 
in this way: 

1 There are political implications inherent in the act of interpretation 
itself, whatever meaning that interpretation bestows. What is the 
meaning, interest and benefit of the interpretive position itself, a 
position from which I wish to give meaning to an enigma? To give a 
political meaning to something is perhaps only the ultimate consequence 
of the epistemological attitude which consists, simply, of the desire 

304 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

to give meaning. This attitude is not innocent but, rather, is rooted 
in the speaking subject's need to reassure himself of his image and 
his identity faced with an object. Political interpretation is thus the 
apogee of the obsessive quest for A Meaning. 

2 The psychoanalytic intervention within Western knowledge has a 
fundamentally deceptive effect. Psychoanalysis, critical and dissolvant, 
cuts through political illusions, fantasies and beliefs to the extent that 
they consist in providing only one meaning, an uncriticizable ultimate 
Meaning, to human behaviour. If such a situation can lead to despair 
within the polis, we must not forget that it is also a source of lucidity 
and ethics. The psychoanalytic intervention is, from this point of view, 
a counterweight, an antidote, to political discourse which, without it, 
is free to become our modern religion: the final explanation. 

3 The political interpretations of our century have produced two 
powerful and totalitarian results: Fascism and Stalinism. Parallel to 
the socio-economic reasons for these phenomena, there exists as well 
another, more intrinsic reason: the simple desire to give a meaning, 
to explain, to provide the answer, to interpret. In that context I will 
briefly discuss Louis Ferdinand Celine's texts in so far as the 
ideological interpretations given by him are an example of political 
delirium in avant-garde writing. 

I would say that interpretation as an epistemological and ethical attitude 
began with the Stoics. In other words, it should not be confused with 
theory in the Platonic sense, which assumes a prior knowledge of the 
ideal Forms to which all action or creation is subordinate. Man, says 
Epictetus, is 'born to contemplate God and his works, and not only 
to contemplate them but also interpret them [kai ou monon teatin, ala 
kai exegetin auton] \ 'To interpret' in this context, and I think always, 
means 'to make a connection'. Thus the birth of interpretation is con- 
sidered the birth of semiology, since the semiological sciences relate 
a sign (an event-sign) to a signified in order to act accordingly, con- 
sistently, consequently. 1 

Much has been made of the circularity of this connection which, 
throughout the history of interpretive disciplines up to hermeneutics, 
consists in enclosing the enigmatic (interpretable) object within the 
interpretive theory's pre-existent system. Instead of creating an object, 
however, this process merely produces what the interpretive theory had 
pre-selected as an object within the enclosure of its own system. Thus 

Psychoanalysis and the Polis 305 

it seems that one does not interpret something outside theory but rather 
that theory harbours its object within its own logic. Theory merely 
projects that object on to a theoretical place at a distance, outside its 
grasp, thereby eliciting the very possibility of interrogation (Heidegger's 

We could argue at length about whether interpretation is a circle or 
a spiral: in other words, whether the interpretable object it assigns itself 
is simply constituted by the interpretation's own logic or whether it 
is recreated, enriched and thus raised to a higher level of knowledge 
through the unfolding of interpretive discourse. Prestigious work in 
philosophy and logic is engaged in this investigation. I will not pursue 
it here. Such a question, finally, seems to me closer to a Platonic idea 
of interpretation (i.e., theorization) than it does to the true innovation 
of the Stoics' undertaking. This innovation is the reduction, indeed 
the elimination, of the distance between theory and action as well as 
between model and copy. What permits this elimination of the distance 
between nature (which the Stoics considered interpretable) and the 
interpreter is the extraordinary opening of the field of subjectivity. The 
person who does the interpretation, the subject who makes the con- 
nection between the sign and the signified, is the Stoic sage displaying, 
on the one hand, the extraordinary architectonics of his will and, on 
the other, his mastery of time (both momentary and infinite). 

I merely want to allude to this Stoic notion of the primordial inter- 
dependence of interpretation, subjective will and mastery of time. For 
my own interest is in contemporary thought which has rediscovered, 
in its own way, that even if interpretation does no more than establish 
a simple logical connection, it is nevertheles played out on the scene 
of speaking subjectivity and the moment of speech. Two great intellec- 
tual ventures of our time, those of Marx and Freud, have broken through 
the hermeneutic tautology to make of it a revolution in one instance and, 
in the other, a cure. We must recognize that all contemporary political 
thought which does not deal with technocratic administration - although 
technocratic purity is perhaps only a dream - uses interpretation in 
Marx's and Freud's sense: as transformation and as cure. Whatever 
object one selects (a patient's discourse, a literary or journalistic text 
or certain socio-political behaviour), its interpretation reaches its full 
power, so as to tip the object towards the unknown of the interpretive 
theory or, more simply, toward the theory's intentions, only when the 
interpreter confronts the interpretable object. 

306 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

It is within this field of confrontation between the object and the 
subject of interpretation that I want to pursue my investigation. I assume 
that at its resolution there are two major outcomes. First, the object 
may succumb to the interpretive intentions of the interpreter, and then 
we have the whole range of domination from suggestion to propaganda 
to revolution. Or second, the object may reveal to the interpreter the 
unknown of his theory and permit the constitution of a new theory. 
Discourse in this case is renewed; it can begin again: it forms a new 
object and a new interpretation in this reciprocal transference. 

Before going any further, however, I would like to suggest that another 
path, post-hermeneutic and perhaps even post-interpretive, opens up 
for us within the lucidity of contemporary discourse. Not satisfied to 
stay within the interpretive place which is, essentially, that of the Stoic 
sage, the contemporary interpreter renounces the game of indebtedness, 
proximity and presence hidden within the connotations of the concept 
of interpretation. (Interpretare means 'to be mutually indebted'; pret: 
from popular Latin praestus, from the classical adverb praesto, meaning 
'close at hand', 'nearby'; praesto esse: 'to be present, attend' praestare: 
'to furnish, to present [as an object, e.g., money]'.) The modern inter- 
preter avoids the presentness of subjects to themselves and to things. 
For in this presentness a strange object appears to speaking subjects, 
a kind of currency they grant themselves - interpretation - to make 
certain that they are really there, close by, within reach. Breaking out 
of the enclosure of the presentness of meaning, the new 'interpreter' 
no longer interprets: he speaks, he 'associates', because there is no longer 
an object to interpret; there is, instead, the setting-off of semantic, 
logical, phantasmatic and indeterminable sequences. As a result, a 
fiction, an uncentred discourse, a subjective polytopia come about, 
cancelling the metalinguistic status of the discourses currendy governing 
the post-analytic fate of interpretation. 

The Freudian position on interpretation has the immense advantage 
of being midway between a classic interpretive attitude - that of 
providing meaning through the connection of two terms from a stable 
place and theory - and the questioning of the subjective and theoretical 
stability of the interpretant which, in the act of interpretation itself, 
establishes the theory and the interpreter himself as interpretable objects. 
The dimension of desire, appearing for the first time in the citadel of 
interpretive will, steals the platform from the Stoic sage, but at the same 
time it opens up time, suspends Stoic suicide and confers not only an 

Psychoanalysis and the Polis 307 

interpretive power but also a transforming power to these new, unpre- 
dictable signifying effects which must be called an imaginary. I would 
suggest that the wise interpreter give way to delirium so that, out of 
his desire, the imaginary may join interpretive closure, thus producing 
a perpetual interpretive creative force. 

1 What is delirium? 

Delirium is a discourse which has supposedly strayed from a presum- 
ed reality. The speaking subject is presumed to have known an object, 
a relationship, an experience that he is henceforth incapable of 
reconstituting accurately. Why? Because the knowing subject is also 
a desiring subject, and the paths of desire ensnarl the paths of knowledge. 

Repressed desire pushes against the repression barrier in order to 
impose its contents on consciousness. Yet the resistance offered by 
consciousness, on the one hand, and the pressure of desire, on the other, 
leads to a displacement and deformation of that which otherwise could 
be reconstituted unaltered. This dynamic of delirium recalls the consti- 
tution of the dream or the phantasm. Two of its most important 
moments are especially noteworthy here. 

First, we normally assume the opposite of delirium to be an objective 
reality, objectively perceptible and objectively knowable, as if the 
speaking subject were only a simple knowing subject. Yet we must admit 
that, given the cleavage of the subject (conscious/unconscious) and given 
that the subject is also a subject of desire, perceptual and knowing 
apprehension of the original object is only a theoretical, albeit un- 
doubtedly indispensable, hypothesis. More importantly, the system 
Freud calls perception-knowledge (subsequently an object of interpreta- 
tion or delirium) is always already marked by a lack: for it shelters within 
its very being the non-signiflable, the non-symbolized. This 'minus 
factor', by which, even in perception-knowledge, the subject signifies 
himself as subject of the desire of the Other, is what provokes, through 
its insistence on acceding to further significations, those deformations 
and displacements which characterize delirium. Within the nucleus of 
delirious construction, we must retain this hollow, this void, this 
'minus 1', as the instinctual drive's insistence, as the unsymbolizable 
condition of the desire to speak and to know. 

Yet delirium holds; it asserts itself to the point of procuring for the 
subject both jouissance and stability which, without that adhesive of 

308 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

delirium, would disintegrate rapidly into a somatic symptom, indeed, 
into the unleashing of the death drive. It can do so, however, only 
because the discourse of delirium 'owes its convincing power to the 
element of historical truth which it inserts in the place of the rejected 
reality'. 2 In other words, delirium masks reality or spares itself from 
a reality while at the same time saying a truth about it. More true? Less 
true? Does delirium know a truth which is true in a different way than 
objective reality because it speaks a certain subjective truth, instead 
of a presumed objective truth? Because it presents the state of the 
subject's desire? This 'mad truth' {folk verite) of delirium is not evoked 
here to introduce some kind of relativism or epistemological 
skepticism. 3 1 am insisting on the part played by truth in delirium to 
indicate, rather, that since the displacement and deformation peculiar 
to delirium are moved by desire, they are not foreign to the passion 
for knowledge, that is, the subject's subjugation to the desire to know. 
Desire and the desire to know are not strangers to each other, up to 
a certain point. What is that point? 

Desire, the discourse of desire, moves towards its object through a 
connection, by displacement and deformation. The discourse of desire 
becomes a discourse of delirium when it forecloses its object, which 
is always already marked by that 'minus factor' mentioned earlier, and 
when it establishes itself as the complete locus of jouissance (full and 
without exteriority). In other words, no other exists, no object survives 
in its irreducible alterity. On the contrary, he who speaks, Daniel 
Schreber, for example, identifies himself with the very place of alterity, 
he merges with the Other, experiencing jouissance in and through the 
place of otherness. Thus in delirium the subject himself is so to speak 
the Phallus, which implies that he has obliterated the primordial object 
of desire - the mother - either because he has foreclosed the mother, 
whom he finds lacking, or because he has submerged himself in her, 
exaggerating the totality thus formed, as if it were the Phallus. 
Delirium's structure thus constitutes the foreclosure of the paternal 
function because of the place it reserves for the maternal - but also 
feminine - object which serves to exclude, moreover, any other 
consideration of objectality. 

By contrast, if it is true that the discourse of knowledge leads its 
enigmatic pre-object, that which solicits interpretation - its Sachverhalt 
- inside its own circle and as such brings about a certain hesitation of 
objectness, it does not take itself for the Phallus but rather places the 

Psychoanalysis and the Polis 309 

Phallus outside itself in what is to be known: object, nature, destiny. 
That is why the person through whom knowledge comes about is not 
mad, but (as the Stoics have indicated) he is (subject to) death. The 
time of accurate interpretation, that is, an interpretation in accordance 
with destiny (or the Other's Phallus), is a moment that includes and 
completes eternity; interpretation is consequently both happiness and 
death of time and of the subject: suicide. The transformation of sexual 
desire into the desire to know an object deprives the subject of this desire 
and abandons him or reveals him as subject to death. Interpretation, 
in its felicitous accuracy, expurgating passion and desire, reveals the 
interpreter as master of his will but at the same time as slave of death. 
Stoicism is, and I'll return to this point, the last great pagan ideology, 
tributary of nature as mother, raised to the phallic rank of Destiny to 
be interpreted. 

2 Analytic interpretation 

Like the delirious subject, the psychoanalyst builds, by way of inter- 
pretation, a construction which is true only if it triggers other associations 
on the part of the analysand, thus expanding the boundaries of the 
anal y sable. In other words, this analytic interpretation is only, in the 
best of cases, partially true, and its truth, even though it operates with 
the past, is demonstrable only by its effects in the present. 

In a strictly Stoic sense, analytic interpretation aims to correspond 
to a (repressed) event or sign in order to act. In the same sense, it is 
a connection between disparate terms of the patient's discourse, thereby 
re-establishing the causes and effects of desire; but it is especially a 
connection of the signifiers peculiar to the analyst with those of the 
analysand. This second circulation, dependent on the analyst's desire 
and operative only with him, departs from interpretive mastery and 
opens the field to suggestion as well as to projection and indeterminable 
drifts. In this way, the analyst approaches the vertigo of delirium and, 
with it, the phallic jouissance of a subject subsumed in the dyadic, 
narcissistic construction of a discourse in which the Same mistakes itself 
for the Other. It is, however, only by detaching himself from such a 
vertigo that the analyst derives both his jouissance and his efficacy. 

Thus far, we have seen that analytic interpretation resembles delirium 
in that it introduces desire into discourse. It does so by giving narcissistic 
satisfaction to the subject (the analyst or the analysand), who, at the 

310 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

risk of foreclosing any true object, derives phallic jubilation from being 
the author/actor of a connection that leaves room for desire or for death 
in discourse. 

Yet the analytic position also has counterweights that make delirium 
work on behalf of analytic truth. The most obvious, the most often cited, 
of these is the suspension of interpretation: silence as frustration of 
meaning reveals the ex-centricity of desire with regard to meaning. 
Madness/meaninglessness exists - that is what interpretive silence 
suggests. Secondly, the analyst, constantly tracking his own desire, never 
stops analysing not only his patients' discourse but also his own attitude 
towards it which is his own counter- transference. He is not fixed in 
the position of the classical interpreter, who interprets by virtue of stable 
meanings derived from a solid system or morality or who at least tries 
to restrict the range of his delirium through a stable theoretical 
counterweight. This is not to say that analytic theory does not exist 
but rather that, all things considered, its consistency is rudimentary 
when compared to the counter-transferential operation which is always 
specific and which sets the interpretive machine in motion differently 
every time. If I know that my desire can make me delirious in my 
interpretive constructions, my return to this delirium allows me to 
dissolve its meaning, to displace by one or more notches the quest for 
meaning which I suppose to be one and one only but which I can only 
indefinitely approach. There is meaning, and I am supposed to know it 
to the extent that it escapes me. 

Finally, there is what I will call the unnameable: that which is neces- 
sarily enclosed in every questionable, interpretable, enigmatic object. 
The analyst does not exclude the unnameable. He knows that every 
interpretation will float over that shadowy point which Freud in The 
Interpretation of Dreams calls the dreams' 'umbilical'. The analyst knows 
that delirium, in its phallic ambition, consists precisely in the belief 
that light can rule everywhere, without a shadow. Yet the analyst can 
sight and hear the unnameable, which he preserves as the condition 
of interpretation, only if he sees it as a phantasm. As origin and condition 
of the interpretable, the unnameable is, perhaps, the primordial 
phantasm. What analysis reveals is that the human being does not speak 
and that, a fortiori, he does not interpret without the phantasm of a 
return to the origin, without the hypothesis of an unnameable, of a 

Furthermore, analysis reveals that interpretive speech, like all speech 

Psychoanalysis and the Polis 311 

which is concerned with an object, is acted upon by the desire to return 
to the archaic mother who is resistant to meaning. Interpretive speech 
does this so as to place the archaic mother within the order of language 
- where the subject of desire, in so far as he is a speaking subject, is 
immediately displaced and yet, henceforth, situated. The return to the 
unnameable mother may take the form of narcissistic and masochistic 
delirium, in which the subject merely confronts an idealized petrifica- 
tion of himself in the form of an interpretive Verb, interpretation 
becoming, in this case, Everything, subject and object. This is what 
analytic interpretation confronts, undergoes and, also, displaces. 

For, in short, the analyst-interpreter or the interpreter turned analyst 
derives the originality of his position from his capacity for displace- 
ment, from his mobility, from his polytopia. From past to present, from 
frustration to desire, from the parameter of pleasure to the parameter 
of death, and so on - he dazes the analysand with the unexpectedness 
of his interpretation; even so, however, the unexpectedness of the 
analysis is in any case sustained by a constant: the desire for the Other. 
('If you want me to interpret, you are bound in my desire'). 

Since Edward Glover's Technique of Psychoanalysis (1928), a highly 
regarded work in its time, analytic theory has appreciably refined its 
notion of interpretation. 4 The criteria for sound interpretation may 
undoubtedly vary: 'good adaptation' of the analysand, 'progress', 
appearance of remote childhood memories, encounter with the analyst's 
transference, and so on. Or criteria for a sound interpretation may even 
disappear, leaving only the need for a temporary sanction (which may 
be on the order of the parameters already outlined) within an essentially 
open interpretive process. In this process, one meaning and one meaning 
alone is always specifiable for a particular moment of transference; but, 
given the vast storehouse of the unknown from which analytic inter- 
pretation proceeds, this meaning must be transformed. 

If it seems that analytic interpretation, like all interpretation in the 
strong sense of the word, is therefore an action, can we say that this 
interpretation aims to change the analysand? Two extreme practices 
exist. In one, the analysis suggests interpretations; in the other, it 
assumes a purist attitude: by refusing to interpret, the analysis leaves 
the patient, faced with the absolute silence of the interpreter, depen- 
dent on his own capacity for listening, interpreting and eventually 
changing. Faced with these excesses, one could argue that in the vast 
majority of analyses a psychotherapeutic moment occurs which consists 

312 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

in compensating for previous traumatic situations and allowing the 
analysand to construct another transference, another meaning of his 
relationship to the Other, the analyst. In the analytic interpretation, 
however, such a therapeutic moment has, ultimately, no other function 
than to effect a transference which would otherwise remain doubtful. 
Only from that moment does true analytic work (i.e., dissolving) begin. 
Basically, this work involves removing obvious, immediate, realistic 
meaning from discourse so that the meaninglessness/madness of desire 
may appear and, beyond that, so that every phantasm is revealed as 
an attempt to return to the unnameable. 

I interpret, the analyst seems to say, because Meaning exists. But 
my interpretation is infinite because Meaning is made infinite by desire. 
I am not therefore a dead subject, a wise interpreter, happy and self- 
annihilated in a uniform totality. I am subject to Meaning, a non-Total 
Meaning, which escapes me. 

Analytic interpretation finally leads the analyst to a fundamental 
problem which I believe underlies all theory and practice of interpreta- 
tion: the heterogeneous in meaning, the limitation of meaning, its 
incompleteness. Psychoanalysis, the only modern interpretive theory 
to hypothesize the heterogeneous in meaning, nevertheless makes that 
heterogeneity so interdependent with language and thought as to be 
its very condition, indeed, its driving force. Furthermore, psychoanalysis 
gives heterogeneity an operative and analysable status by designating 
it as sexual desire and/or as death wish. 

3 Can political interpretation be true? 

The efficacy of interpretation is a function of its transferential truth: 
this is what political man learns from the analyst, or in any case shares 
with him. Consider, for example, those political discourses which are 
said to reflect the desires of a social group or even of large masses. There 
is always a moment in history .when those discourses obtain a general 
consensus not so much because they interpret the situation correctly 
(i.e., in accordance with the exigencies of the moment and developments 
dictated by the needs of the majority) but rather because they corres- 
pond to the essentially Utopian desires of that majority. Such political 
interpretation interprets desires; even if it lacks reality, it contains the 
truth of desires. It is, for that very reason, Utopian and ideological. 
Yet, as in analysis, such an interpretation can be a powerful factor 

Psychoanalysis and the Polis 313 

in the mobilization of energies that can lead social groups and masses 
beyond a sado-masochistic ascesis to change real conditions. Such a 
mobilizing interpretation can be called revolution or demagogy. By 
contrast, a more objective, neutral and technocratic interpretation would 
only solidify or very slowly modify the real conditions. 

All political discourse that wants to be and is efficacious shares that 
dynamic. Unlike the analytic dynamic, however, the dynamic of political 
interpretation does not lead its subjects to an elucidation of their own 
(and its own) truth. For, as I pointed out earlier, analytic interpreta- 
tion uses desire and transference, but only to lead the subject, faced 
with the erosion of meaning, to the economy of his own speaking. It 
does so by deflating the subject's phantasms and by showing that all 
phantasms, like any attempt to give meaning, come from the phallic 
jouissance obtained by usurping that unnameable object, that 
Sacherverhalt, which is the archaic mother. 

Of course, no political discourse can pass into non-meaning. Its goal, 
Marx stated explicitly, is to reach the goal of interpretation: interpreting 
the world in order to transform it according to our needs and desires. 
Now, from the position of the post-Freudian, post-phenomenological 
analyst - a position which is really an untenable locus of rationality, 
a close proximity of meaning and non-meaning - it is clear that there 
is no World (or that the World is not all there is) and that to transform 
it is only one of the circles of the interpretation - be it Marxist - which 
refuses to perceive that it winds around a void. 

Given this constant factor of the human psyche confirmed by the 
semiotician and the psychoanalyst when they analyse that ordeal of 
discourse which is the discourse of delirium, what becomes of inter- 
pretive discourse? Indeed, what happens to interpretive discourse in 
view of the void which is integral to meaning and which we find, for 
example, in the 'arbitrariness of the sign' (the unmotivated relation 
between signifier and signified in Saussure), in the 'rnirror stage' (where 
the subject perceives his own image as essentially split, foreign, other), 
or in the various forms of psychic alienation? Clearly, interpretive 
discourse cannot be merely a hermeneutics or a politics. Different 
variants of sacred discourse assume the function of interpretation at 
this point. 

Our cultural orb is centred around the axiom that *the Word became 
flesh'. Two thousand years after a tireless exploration of the comings 
and goings between discourse and the object to be named or interpreted, 

314 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

an object which is the solicitor of interrogation, we have finally achieved 
a discourse on discourse, an interpretation of interpretation. For the 
psychoanalyst, this vertigo in abstraction is, nevertheless, a means of 
protecting us from a masochistic and jubilatory fall into nature, into 
the full and pagan mother, a fall which is a tempting and crushing enigma 
for anyone who has not gained some distance from it with the help of 
an interpretive device. However, and this is the second step post- 
phenomenological analytic rationality has taken, we have also perceived 
the incompleteness of interpretation itself, the incompleteness charac- 
teristic of all language, sign, discourse. This perception prevents the 
closure of our interpretation as a self-sufficient totality, which resembles 
delirium, and at the same time this perception of the interpretation 
constitutes the true life of interpretations (in the plural). 

4 Literature as interpretation: the text 

Philosophical interpretation as well as literary criticism therefore and 
henceforth both have a tendency to be written as texts. They openly 
assume their status as fiction without, however, abandoning their goal 
of stating One Meaning, The True Meaning, of the discourse they 

The fate of interpretation has allowed it to leave behind the protective 
enclosure of a metalanguage and to approach the imaginary, without 
necessarily confusing the two. I would now like to evoke some specifics 
and some dangers of openly fictional interpretation in literary discourse 
itself. So as not to simplify the task, I will take as my example a modern 
French novelist, Louis Ferdinand Celine (1894-1961), whose popular 
and musical style represents the height of twentieth-century French 
literature and whose anti-Semitic and para- Nazi pamphlets reveal one 
of the blackest aspects of contemporary history. 

I consider all fiction (poetic language or narrative) already an inter- 
pretation in the broad sense of the speaking subject's implication in 
a transposition (connection) of a presupposed object. If it is impossible 
to assign to a literary text a pre-existing 'objective reality', the critic 
(the interpreter) can nevertheless find the mark of the interpretive 
function of writing in the transformation which that writing inflicts on 
the language of everyday communication. In other words, style is the 
mark of interpretation in literature. To quote Celine, 'I am not a man 
of ideas. I am a man of style . . . This involves taking sentences, I was 

Psychoanalysis and the Polis 315 

telling you, and unhinging them.' 5 Such an interpretive strategy is 
clearly an enunciative strategy, and, in Ce*linian language, it uses two 
fundamental techniques: segmentation of the sentence, characteristic of 
the first novels; and the more or less recuperable syntactical ellipses which 
appear in the late novels. 

The peculiar segmentation of the Celinian phrase, which is considered 
colloquial, is a cutting up of the syntactic unit by the projected or rejected 
displacement of one of its components. As a result, the normally 
descending modulation of the phrasal melody becomes an intonation 
with two centres. Thus: 'I had just discovered war in its entirety . . . Have 
to be almost in front of it, like I was then, to really see it, the bitch, 
face on and in profile. ' 6 

An analysis of this utterance, not as a syntactic structure but as a 
message in the process of enunciation between a speaking subject and 
his addressee, would show that the aim of this ejection is to thematize 
the displaced element, which then acquires the status not merely of 
a theme but of an emphatic theme. 'La vache' ('the bitch') is the vehicle 
for the primary information, the essential message which the speaker 
emphasizes. From this perspective, the ejected element is desyntacti- 
cized, but it is charged with supplementary semantic value, bearing 
the speaker's emotive attitude and his moral judgement. Thus, the 
ejection emphasizes the informative kernel at the expense of the syntactic 
structure and makes the logic of the message (theme/rheme, support/ 
apart, topic/comment, presupposed/posed) dominate over the logic 
of syntax (verb-object); in other words, the logic of enunciation 
dominates over that of the enunciated. In fact, the terminal intonational 
contour of the rheme (along two modalities: assertive and interrogative) 
indicates the very point at which the modality of enunciation is most 
profoundly revealed. The notable preponderance of this contour with 
the bipartition theme/rheme in children's acquisition of syntax or in 
the emotive or relaxed speech of popular or everyday discourse is added 
proof that it is a deeper organizer of the utterance than syntactic 

This 'binary shape' in Celine's first novels has been interpreted as 
an indication of his uncertainty about self-narration in front of the Other. 
Awareness of the Other's existence would be what determines the 
phenomena of recall and excessive clarity, which then produces segmen- 
tation. In this type of sentence, then, the speaking subject would occupy 
two places: that of his own identity (when he goes straight to the 

316 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

information, to the rheme) and that of objective expression, for the Other 
(when he goes back, recalls, clarifies). Given the prevalence of this type 
of construction in the first phases of children's acquisition of syntax, 
we can state that this binomial, which is both international and logical, 
coincides with a fundamental stage in the constitution of the speaking 
subject: his autonomization with respect to the Other, the constitution 
of his own identity. 

To Freud's and Ren6 Spitz's insistence that 'no' is the mark of man's 
access to the symbolic and the founding of a distinction between the 
pleasure principle and the reality principle, one could add that the 
'binarism' of the message (theme/rheme and vice versa) is another step, 
a fundamental step, in the symbolic integration of negativism, rejection 
and the death drive. It is even a decisive step: with the binarism of 
the message and before the constitution of syntax, the subject not only 
differentiates pleasure from reality - a painful and ultimately impossible 
distinction - but he also distinguishes between the statements: 'I say 
by presupposing' and 'I say by making explicit', that is, 'I say what 
matters to me' versus 'I say to be clear' or even, 'I say what I like' 
versus 'I say for you, for us, so that we can understand each other'. 
In this way, the binary message effects a slippage from the / as the pole 
of pleasure to the .you as addressee and to the impersonal one, he, which 
is necessary to establish a true universal syntax. This is how the subject 
of enunciation is born. And it is in remembering this path that the 
subject rediscovers, if not his origin, at least his originality. The 'spoken' 
writing of Cdline achieves just such a remembering. 

In addition, in Celine's last novels, D'un chateau I 'autre, Nord and 
Rigodon, he repeatedly uses the famous 'three dots' (suspension points) 
and the exclamations which sometimes indicate an ellipsis in the clause 
but serve more fundamentally to make the clause overflow into the larger 
whole of the message. This technique produces a kind of long syntactic 
period, covering a half-page, a full page or more. In contrast to Proustian 
fluctuation, it avoid subordinations, is not given as a logical-syntactic 
unit and proceeds by brief utterances: clauses pronounceable in one 
breath which cut, chop and give rhythm. Laconism (nominal sentences), 
exclamations and the predominance of intonation over syntax re-echo 
(like segmentation but in another way) the archaic phases of the subject 
of enunciation. On the one hand, these techniques, because of the influx 
of non-meaning, arouse the non-semanticized emotion of the reader. 
On the other hand, they give an infra-syntactical, intonational inscription 

Psychoanalysis and the Polis 317 

of that same emotion which transverses syntax but integrates the message 
(theme/rheme and subject-addressee). 7 

From this brief linguistico-stylistic discussion, I would like to stress 
the following: style is interpretation in the sense that it is a connection 
between the logic of utterance and the logic of enunciation, between 
syntax and message and their two corresponding subjective structures. 
The unobjectifiable, unnameable 'object' which is thereby caught in 
the text is what Celine calls an emotion. 'Drive', and its most radical 
component, the death drive, is perhaps an even better term for it. 'You 
know, in Scriptures, it is written: "In the beginning was the Word." 
No! In the beginning was emotion. The Word came afterwards to replace 
emotion as the trot replaced the gallop.' 8 And again: 'Slang is a 
language of hatred that knocks the reader over for you . . .annihilates 
him! . . .at your mercy! . . .he sits there like an ass.' 9 

It is as if Celine's stylistic adventure were an aspect of the eternal 
return to a place which escapes naming and which can be named only 
if one plays on the whole register of language (syntax, but also message, 
intonation, etc.). This locus of emotion, of instinctual drive, of non- 
semanticized hatred, resistant to logico- syntactic naming, appears in 
Celine's work, as in other great literary texts, as a locus of the ab-ject. 
The abject, not yet object, is anterior to the distinction between subject 
and object in normative language. But the abject is also the non-objectality 
of the archaic mother, the locus of needs, of attraction and repulsion, 
from which an object of forbidden desire arises. And finally, abject can 
be understood in the sense of the horrible and fascinating abomination 
which is connoted in all cultures by the feminine or, more indirectly, 
by every partial object which is related to the state of abjection (in the 
sense of the non-separation subject/object). It becomes what culture, 
the sacred must purge, separate and banish so that it may establish itself 
as such in the universal logic of catharsis. 

Is the abject, the ultimate object of style, the archetype of the 
Sachverhalt, of what solicits interpretation? Is it the archi-interpretable? 
This is, as I said earlier, something analytic interpretation can argue. 
Meaning, and the interpretation which both posits and lives off meaning, 
are sustained by that elsewhere which goes beyond them and which 
fiction, style (other variants of interpretation), never stops approaching 
- and dissolving. 

For this is in fact the central issue in Celine as in the great writers 
of all times. By their themes (evil, idiocy, infamy, the feminine, etc.) 

318 Women, Psychoanalysis, Politics 

and their styles, they immerse us in the ab-ject (the unnameable, the 
Sachverhali), not in order to name, reify or objectify them once and for 
all but to dissolve them and to displace us. In what direction? Into the 
harmony of the Word and into the fundamental incompleteness of dis- 
course constituted by a cleavage, a void: an effervescent and dangerous 
beauty, the fragile obverse of a radical nihilism that can only fade away 
in 'those sparkling depths which [say] that nothing exists any more'. 10 

Yet this pulverization of the abject, the ultimate case of interpretation 
by style, remains fragile. Because it does not always satisfy desire, the 
writer is tempted to give one interpretation and one only to the outer 
limit of the nameable. The Sacherverhalt, the abject, is then embodied 
in the figure of a maleficent agent, both feminine and phallic, miserable 
and all-powerful, victim and satrap, idiot and genius, bestial and wily. 
What once defied discourse now becomes the ultimate object of one 
and only one interpretation, the source and acme of a polymorphous 
jouissance in which the interpreter, this time in his delirium, is finally 
reunited with what denies, exceeds and excites him. He blends into 
this abject and its feminine-maternal resonance which threatens identity 
itself. This interpretive delirium - writing's weak moment - found in 
C&ine the Jew as its privileged object in the context of Hitlerism. The 
historical and social causes of Celine's anti-Semitism can be sought in 
monotheism, or, rather, in its denials, and in the history of France and 
the reality of the Second World War. His anti-Semitism also has a more 
subtle foundation, more intrinsically linked to the psychic instability 
of the writer and the speaking subject in general: it is the fascination 
with the wandering and elusive other, who attracts, repels, puts one 
literally beside oneself. This other, before being another subject, is an 
object of discourse, a non-object, an abject. This abject awakens in the 
one who speaks archaic conflicts with his own improper objects, his 
ab-jects, at the edge of meaning, at the limits of the interpretable. And 
it arouses the paranoid rage to dominate those objects, to transform 
them, to exterminate them. 

I do not presume to elucidate in this brief presentation the many causes 
and aspects of Celine's anti-Semitism. A lengthier consideration of the 
subject can be found in my Pouvoirs de Uhorreur. I have broached this 
difficult and complex subject here to indicate by a paroxysm, which we 
could take as a hyperbole, the dangerous paths of interpretive passion, 
fascinated by an enigma that is beyond discourse. For the psychoanalyst, 
it recalls a desiring indebtedness to the maternal continent. 

Psychoanalysis and the Polis 319 

I would like the above remarks to be taken both as a 'free association' 
and as the consequence of a certain position. I would want them to be 
considered not only an epistemological discussion but also a personal 
involvement (need I say one of desire?) in the dramas of thought, 
personality and contemporary politics. Such a vast theme ('the politics 
of interpretation') cannot help but involve a multiplicity of questions. 
If their conjunction in my paper seems chaotic, inelegant and non- 
scientific to a positivist rationality, this conjunction is precisely what 
defines for me the originality and the difficulty of psychoanalytic inter- 
pretation. The task is not to make an interpretive summa in the name 
of a system of truths - for that attitude has always made interpretation 
a rather poor cousin of theology. The task is, instead, to record the 
crisis of modern interpretive systems without smoothing it over, to affirm 
that this crisis is inherent in the symbolic function itself and to perceive 
as symptoms all constructions, including totalizing interpretation, which 
try to deny this crisis: to dissolve, to displace indefinitely, in Kafka's 
words, 'temporarily and for a lifetime'. 

Perhaps nothing of the wise Stoic interpreter remains in the analyst 
except his function as actor: he accepts the text and puts all his effort 
and desire, his passion and personal virtuosity, into reciting it, while 
remaining indifferent to the events that he enacts. This 'indifference', 
called 'benevolent neutrality', is the modest toga with which we cover 
our interpretive desire. Yet by shedding it, by implicating ourselves, 
we bring to life, to meaning, the dead discourses of patients which 
summon us. The ambiguity of such an interpretive position is both 
untenable and pleasurable. Knowing this, knowing that he is constantly 
in abjection and in neutrality, in desire and in indifference, the analyst 
builds a strong ethics, not normative but directed, which no trans- 
cendence guarantees. That is where, it seems to me, the modern version 
of liberty is being played out, threatened as much by a single, total and 
totalitarian Meaning as it is by delirium. 


1 See Victor Goldschmidt, Le Systeme stoicien et I'idie du temps (Paris, 1953). 

2 Sigmund Freud, 'Construction in analysis', The Standard Edition of the Complete 
Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, tr. and ed. James Strachey (24 vols, London. 
1953-74), vol. XXIII, p. 268. 

3 See in my Folk veriti (Paris, 1979) the texts presented in my seminar at l'Hdpital de la 
Qt6 Universitaire, Service de psychiatric [Editor's note: Kristeva's main contribu- 
tion to this book, 'Le vreel', is translated in this volume under the title 'The true-real'.] 

320 Womeriy Psychoanalysis, Politics 

4 See esp. Jacques Lacan, 'Del 'interpretation au transfert', Le Seminaire de Jacques 
Lacan, vol. XI, LesQuatre concepts fondamentauxde la psychanalyse (Paris, 1973), pp. 
22 Iff. 

5 Louis Ferdinand Celine, 'Louis Ferdinand Celine vous parle', Oeuvres completes (2 
vols, Paris, 1966-9), vol. II, p. 934. 

6 ' Je venais de decouvrir la guerre toute entiere . . . Faut 6tre a peu pres devant elle comme 
je l'etais a ce moment-la pour bien la voir, la vache y en face et de profil' (Celine, Voyage 
au bout de la nuit, Oeuvres completes, vol. I, p. 8). 

7 For a lengthier discussion of Celine's style and its interpretation, see my Pouvoirs de 
I'horreur: essaisurl'abjection (Paris, 1980). [Editor's note: Translated by Leon Roudiez 
as Powers of Horror: an essay on abjection, New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.] 

8 Celine, 'Celine vous parle', p. 933. 

9 Celine, Entretiens avec le professeur Y, 1955; (Paris, 1976), p. 72. 
10 Celine, Rigodon, Oeuvres completes, vol. II, p. 927. 

[Translator's note: I would like to thank Domna Stanton and Alice Jardine for their help 
on an earlier version of this translation.] 

Translated by Margaret Waller 


absolute, immediate and 254-6 

act 51 

action 301, 319 

Adam 140, 143 

Adams, P. 19, 21 

addressee, subject as 37, 45, 56-7 

alterity/alteration 75, 85, 117 

ambiguities of semanalysis 31 

ambivalence 37, 39-44, 54, 56, 59 

analytic interpretation 309-12 

androgyny 147 

anonymity 45 

antecedent in chain of sciences 78 

anti-humanism 25 

anti-paradoxical symbol 65 

anti-Semitism 302, 318 

arbitrary ending 71 

'arbitrary' relationship 91 

art 65-8, 119-20, 154-5,280 

Artaud, A. 50, 54, 162, 214, 236, 281, 284 

articulation 51, 93 

artificial truth of namegiver 219-22 

Augustine, St 65, 143-4, 146-7, 162, 165 

author 45, 49 

Bakhtin, M. 2, 34-44, 47-8, 50-1, 53, 56-8 

Barthes, R. 1, 3, 4, 21 

Beauvoir, S. de 171, 285 

Being 219 

Benveniste, E. 39, 44, 90-2, 107, 236 

Bernard of Clairvaux 162, 166, 169 

Bernard, St 8, 18, 67 

Blackburn, R. 19, 21 


use value and 82 

woman's 161, 172-7 
boundary 98-100 

Brown, B. 19, 21 
Butor, M. 57 

capitalism 31, 144 

carnivatism 34, 36, 42-3, 48-51 

case histories 263-8 

castration, fear of 150, 225, 100-5 

causality 153 

Ceune, L. F. 284, 288, 302, 304, 314-18 

chain of deflections, metonymic 70 

characters ('personality') 45, 46 

childbirth and pregnancy 154 

children see mother; Oedipal phase: pre- 

Oedipal phase 
China 273, 285 

language of 121-2 

women of 138-59 
chora 89, 93-8, 100, 104, 108-9. 115-17, 


love and 260-1 

women and 138, 145-52, 191 
Chrysostom, J. 162, 165 
circle, science as 78 
Cixous, H. 9, 11, 21 
class structure 144 
Clement, C. 21 
Cockburn, A. 19, 21 
code(s) 26, 116 
combinations 72, 81 
commonality of language 38 
communication, measurable 82 
community 26, 294 
complement 219 
computers 116 

concept and term, distinction between 69 
conceptualization and symbol 68 



concrete 70, 82, 94-5 
condensation 111 
constitutive sign 62 
contemplation 122-3 
continuum 41-2 
contradiction, resolution of 71 
correlation of signs SI 
correlative meaning 72 
counter-ideology 187, 202 
Coward, R. 19, 21 
creation ideology of 66 
cure 305 
cyclical time 187, 192 

death 95, 120, 158, 245, 295, 317 
deconstruction 15-19 
delirium 307-9 
demonstratives 232-4 
denial 229 

denotation 43, 105-9 
Derrida, J. 4, 16, 17, 4«, 76, 83 
desire 141-2, 226, 306-8, 312 
dialectical transformation 50 
dialogical discourse 47, 56 
dialogism 34, 41-3, 58 

of denotative or historical words 44-7 

destruction of person as 51-2 

word and 37-9 
dialogue 37-9, 66 

see also dialogism 
difference 83 
direct narration 38 
direct word 43 
disavowel 114, 215, 224, 226 
discontinuities % 
discourses, types of 38-9, 47, 122, 154 

see also dialogical discourse; epic 
monologism; Menippean discourse; 
monological discourse; novel; poetic 
language; polyphonic discourse 
disjunction 71 
displacement 111 
dissident 292-300 
dissolution 300 
distance, logic of 42 
distinctiveness 93 
division 108 

Dostoevsky, F. 42, 50, 57, 158 
double 40 
doxy 110, 118 

'dramatic banter', dialogism as 41 
dramatization 49, 50 
drearfl(s) 310 
dreamthought 83 
dreamwork75, 83-4, 111 
drives 28, 93, 95, 158, 245, 317 
Duns Scorns 68. 166-7 

langue/parole 39 

narrator and other 47 

signifier/signified 40, 63 

structural, of carnival 49 
dynamic(s) 35, 194, 252-4 

Eagleton, T. 19. 21 

ecosystem 117 

ecstatic female archetypes 147-8 

ego/Ego 101. 117, 241, 252, 255-8 

transcendental 27-8, 29-30, 90 
Eikhenbaum, B. 38 
Einjvhlung 243-4, 246-7 
Electra 139, 151-2 
Ellis, J. 19, 21 
emptiness 242, 260 
Engels, F. 18, 302 
enunciation 98, 105-9, 218, 244 

of subject 46, 56-7, 244 
enunciative passages 232-6 
epic monologism 47-8, 50, 57 
Epictetus 304 
equilibrium 209-10 
eternity 191 
ethics 15-19, 211 
Europe and USA 272-91 passim 
Eve 140, 143, 165 
evocation 72 

exchange value and system 81, 83 
exclusive disjunction 71 
expression, novel as 69 
expulsion 238 
exteriorization 37 
extra-linguistic 90 

fantasy 51-3 

father 148, 229, 256 

ideal 261-3 

identification with 138-9, 151-2, 155-6, 

role of 142, 151, 153 
feminism 145, 187 



femininity and 9-12 

generations of 193-6 

see also time, women's; women 
Feral, J. 19, 21 
fertility-oriented religion 138, 140-1, 175, 

fetishism 113-17 
foreclosure 215, 218, 224 
Foucault, M. 1, 4 
Frege, G. 41, 105-9, 221 
Freud, S. 9, 28-9, 98-9, 105, 117, 163, 
294, 296, 306, 310 

on castration fear 150, 198 

on drives 28, 93, 95 

on love 238-71 

on mother 177-9, 206, 297 

on religion 178-9 

and semiotics 75, 83 

and time, women's 195-7 

on truth 222-4 

on unconscious 91, 98, 111, 217 
functions 29, 95, 96, 107 

Gallop, J. 19, 21 
generations 187, 193-6, 209 
Generative Grammar 27 
genotext 28, 120-3 
Glover, E. 311 
Glucksmann, A. 19 
God 66, 139-40, 143 
Gorz, A. 19 
gram, dynamic 35 

gnimnm 83 

Green, A. 241 

hallucination 216, 227-32 
hate 248-50 

Hegel, G. W. F. 2, 15, 31-2, 58, 108, 
173, 205, 221, 254-5, 292, 296 
Heidegger, M. 82-3, 255, 304 
heterogeneity 30, 31 
hieroglyph 55, 83 

development of religions 138, 140-5 

linear 36, 85, 187, 189, 192 

of symbols and signs 63-7 

see also time 
'homologous' woman 139, 155-6 
horizontal status of word 36-7 
Husserl, E. 27, 83, 90, 92, 99, 205 

hysteria 122, 191, 192, 216, 226, 250-2 
hallucinatory weft of 227-32 

I 153, 238 

not I 256-60 
icon 63, 216 

Ego 252, 258 

dynamics 252-4 

father 261-3 
identification 98, 254-60 

hate and love 248-50 

'immediate' and objectless 244-6 

logic 194 

with metaphorical object 239, 243-4 
identity 188, 189, 209-10, 224 
ideologeme 62, 71-2 
ideologies 25, 27, 66, 78 
illusion 70-1 
image 51, 170 
imago 101. 102 
imitation 44, 66 
immediacy 254-6 
'immediate' identification 244-6 
'inconsequent' statements 49 
indirect narration 38 
infinity 58 
inhibition 151 
insertion, point of 99 
intellectual, dissident as 292-300 

analytic 309-12 

literature of 314-19 
political, truth of 312-14 
zee also psychoanalysis, polis and 
intersection of textual surfaces 36 
intersubjective relations 92 
intertextuality 37, 111 

Jakobson, R. 27, 39, 47-8, 111 

Jesus 65-6, 162, 164-6, 170 

Jones, A. R. 19, 21 

Jones, E. 146-8, 150 

jouissance 146-54, 230-1 

Joyce, J. 32, 35, 42, 50, 52, 86, 122, 158, 

Judaism 138, 140-2, 144-5 

Kafka, F. 35, 42, 50, 52, 56, 158, 299, 319 
kinship 26, 151 



Klein, M. 29, 91, 95, 103, 241, 245-6, 249, 259 
knowledge 26, 255 

Lacan, J. 1, 13, 28, 98-9, 198 

on discourses 122 

on idealization 254 

on image 

on metonymical displacement 239 

on Oedipal triangle 229 

on the real 217 

on signification 46, 101, 103, 242 

on Woman 205 
lack 198, 307 
language 244 

see also dialogue; semiotics; word 
langue 39 

laughter, silenced 50 
Lautreamont, Comte de 35, 40, 41, 50, 56, 

law/Law 138, 140, 215, 216 
Leibnitz, G. W. 30, 221 
Leitch, V. B. 19, 21 
Lewis, P. E. 2, 21, 90 
linear history 36, 85, 187, 189, 192 
linguistics see semiotics 

interpretation of 314-19 

mystery in 97 

semiotics and 75, 86-7 

women and 207 

see also novel 
logic 41, 42, 92, 194 
love 170-2, 238-71 

Mallarme\ S. 17, 32, 46, 49, 86, 89, 97, 

122, 158, 297 
Mandel, E. 19 
marginal discourses 154 
martyrdom 146-8 
Marx, K. and Marxism 18, 294, 301-5 

lack of subject 31-2 

and semiotics 74-5, 78-83, 85 

see also socialist countries 
Marxist-Feminist Collective 19, 21 
Mary 146, 160-85 passim 
materiality 30. 31 
matrices, symbolic 122 
meaning 28, 109, 198, 310 

correlative 72 

One 302, 314 

measurable communication 82 

mediator, word as 37 

melancholic female archetypes 147-8 

Menippean discourse 40-1, 47, 50-6, 63 

message 315 

metalanguage 24, 30, 122-3 

metaphorical object 243-4, 246-8 

metaphors, progressive creation of 70 

metonymic 70, 246-8 

mimesis 109-12 

minimal units, words as 57 

mirror positing subject 100-5 

modalities, semiotic and symbolic 92 

models, semiotics as making of 76-80 

modi significandi 30 

Moi, T. 19, 21 

monologic&l discourse 40-1, 47-8, 50, 57 

monologue 38 


patriarchal 138, 141, 142 

in unconscious 163-5 
monumental time 187, 189, 192 
morality, 40, 66 
Moses 223-4, 234-5, 261 
mother 151 

Christianity and 138, 146, 191 

desire to be 188, 205-6, 297 

narcissism or 161-3 

relationship with 101, 139, 204-5, 239, 
249, 262 

see also fertility-oriented religion; Oedipal 
phase; pre-Oedipal phase; women 
murder 50, 1 19-20 
mystery in literature 97 
myths 26, 64 

namegiver, artificial truth of 219-22 
names 45, 69, 234-6 
narcissism 158, 161-3, 240-3, 257-60 
narrative 44-7, 122-3 

classification of words within 43-4 

modes of 38, 48 

as monologism 41 

significance 56 
negativity 67, 89, 95-6, 114, 215, 224 
neurosis 226 

Nietzsche, F. 49, 51, 150, 189, 293 
nominalism 68-9 
non-being 139, 156-8 
non-disjunction 71 



non-exclusive opposition 42, 49 
non-person as subject S 1 
Norris, C. 19, 21 
nothingness 49 
novel 39-40, 42, 50, 52-5 

emergence of 62, 63, 67, 69 

subversive 55-9 

see also literature 

object 62, 63, 117, 240-2, 250, 260 

alterity of 75, 85 

of interpretation 306 

metaphorical 243-4, 246-8 

-oriented word 43 

thesis shifted onto 1 14 

unobserved 85 
objectivity of sign 70 
objectless 244-6 
Oedipal phase 103, 259-61 
One/one 40, 302, 314 
open structure, illusion of 70-1 
opposition 42, 49, 67 
oral discourses 38 
order, symbolic 196, 199-200 
ordering 94 

other/Other 50, 101, 102, 117, 231, 240, 
253-4, 315-16 

narrator and 47 

one and 40 

reading the 39 

woman as 138, 146 

Pajaczkowska, C. 19, 21 

paragram, poetic 40 

parody 44, 50 

parole 39, 86 

patriarchalism 138-9, 141, 142, 144 

peak 40 

personification 69-70 

phenotezt 28, 120-3 

Plath, S. 157-8 

Plato 51, 54, 93-4, 214-15, 219-20 

plausibility 217, 220 

Pleynet, M. 4, 272-91 

poetic language 28, 37, 40-1, 49 

revolution in 89-136 

fetishism 113-17 

genotext and phenotext 120-3 

mirror and castration 100-5 

phenomenological subject of enunciation 

signification 105-9 
signifying process 118-20 
thetic 106, 114: rupture and/or boundary 

98-100; breaching (mimesis) 109-12 
see also ckora 
polis see psychoanalysis 
political interpretation 312-14 
politics see dissident; psychoanalysis, polis 

and United States 
polyphonic discourse 39, 42, 50, 55-6 
polyvalence 275 
Pontalis, J. -B. 215 
position 94, 98 
power 41, 42, 170, 201-5 
pre-conscious 102 
pre-meaning and pre-sign 29 
pre-Oedipal phase 95, 102, 103, 148-51 
primary processes 28, 93 
process 75, 121 

production 24, 75, 82, 189, 196 
modes of 81, 85 
semiotics and 74, 80-5 
progressive creation of metaphors 70 
prohibition 47 
project, semiotic 1-3 
proper names 45, 234-6 
proposition 220 
prepositional thetic 106 
psychic universe, refusal to define 54 

polis and 301-20: analytic interpretation 
309-12; delirium 307-9; literature as 
interpretation 314-19; political 
interpretation, truth of; 312-14 
semiotics and deconstruction 15-19 
subject and 12-15 
see also Freud 
psychoses 224, 226, 239, 258-9 
see also case histories 

quantum mechanics 84 

Rabelais 34, 42, 50, 53, 56 

reading 39, 56 

real see truth 

realism 54-5, 68 

realist novel see monological discourse 

regulator, word as 37 

rejection 89 



religion 66, 208, 276 

see also Christianity; fertility-oriented 
religion; God; Judaism; monotheism 
repetition 44, 49, 191 
replica 62 

representation 51, 208, 219 
repression 138, 215, 225, 248 
reproduction 141 
resolution of contradiction 71 
responsibility 210 
restriction, units of 64 
revolution 50, 305 

see also poetic language, revolution in 
Rose, J. 8, 11, 15, 21,272 
Roudiez, L. S. 19, 22 
rupture 98-100 

sacrifice, living the 199-200 

Sale, A. de la 62, 63, 67, 69 

Saussure, H. B. de 27, 40, 42, 64, 76, 242 

science of object, linguistics as 26 

Searle, J. 29, 92 

seeing voice 227-32 

segmentation of sentence 315 

semanalysis 24, 28, 31-3 

semantic fields 92 

semblance 217, 226 

semiology 24, 27, 32, 76 

see also semanalysis 
semiosis 91 
semiotics 1-3, 28, 29 

linguistics and textuality see dialogism; dia- 
logue; novel; poetic language; sign(s); 
symbol; system and speaking subject; word 

literature and 38, 75, 86-7 

as making of models 78-80 

production and 74, 80-5 

as a science 74-88 
separation 198, 222-7 
series of nominal definitions 69 
seriousness 50, 52 
serpent 143 

sexes, war between 139-52 
sexual equality 196 
sexuality 287-8 
Sibyl 67-8 
sign(s) 40, 116 

characteristics of 70-2 

correlation of 51 

dynamics of 194 

symbol and, distinction between 63-4 

systems 25 
significance 11, 12, 13, 234, 242 
signification 105-9, 115 
signifier /signified 40, 63, 234 
signifying process 24, 28, 209 

see also poetic language 
similitude 55 
social activity 52-5 
social practices and semiotics 25, 26 
social text 87 
socialism 195-7 

socialist countries 273, 277, 280, 283-5 
Socrates 51-2, 54 

Sollers, P. 3, 4, 32, 35, 57, 272-91 
space 36, 58, 190-1, 209, 235 
speaking subject 24-34, 89 
speech 122, 151 
Spinoza, B. 185, 211, 274, 299 
Spivak, G. C. 19, 22 
Stabat Mater 160-86 

alone of her sex 177-85 

body 161, 172-7 

image of power 170 

love 170-2 

neither sex nor death 165-9 

paradox: mother or primary narcissism 

unconscious in monotheism 163-5 
Stanton, D. C. 19, 22 
status 36, 37, 58 
Stoics 304-6 
Stone, J. 19, 22 
structuralism 24, 27, 34 
structure 49, 79 
subject 49, 51, 89, 96, 252, 306 

absent from signifier 100-5 

as addressee 37, 45, 56-7 

of enunciation 45-6, 56-7, 244 

and psychoanalysis 12-15 

speaking, system and 24-34, 89 
subjectivity, female 191-2 
subversive novel 55-9 
successor in chain of sciences 78 
suicide 139, 156-8 
supposition, theoretical 118 
suspension of interpretation 310 
Swift, J. 34, 42, 50, 53, 56 
symbol 64-70 

and sign, distinction between 63-4 



symbolic, unstable 11 3- 17 
symbolic denominator 188 
symbolic order 1%, 199-200 
syntactical ellipses 315 
syntagmatic character of language 39 
system and speaking subject 24-33 
systematic character of language 39 
systems 78, 81 

Tel Quel group 3-9, 22 

term and concept, distinction between 69 

terror and power 201-5 

text/textual 96 

context 37 

literature as interpretation 314-19 

manifestations 48 

practice 122-3 

reading as 56 

social activity 52-5 

social 87 

surfaces 36 

theatre 56 
textuality see semiotics, linguistics and 

theatre 56, 65 
theoretical supposition 118 
theory, science as 77-8 
thetic 106, 114 

breaching (mimesis) 109-12 

phase of language 24 

rupture and/or boundary 98-100 
Thomas, St 8, 18, 68 
time 139, 152-6 

mastery of 305 

women's 187-213 
Todorov, T. 1, 2, 34 
Tolstoy, L. 41, 57 
totalitarianism 201, 204, 303 
trace 53, 83 

transcendental ego 27-8, 29-30, 90 
transference 245 
'transfinite', logic of 42 
transformation 50, 72, 74, 107-8 
transgression 41-2 
translinguistic procedure 37, 40 
transposition 108, 111-12 
true-real 214-36 
artificial 219-22 

passages between enunciated spaces 232-6 
seeing voice 227-32 

as separation 222-7 
truth 153, 155 

ethics and 15-19 

of political interpretation 312-14 

see also true-real 
Tsvetaeva, M. 157, 158 

unconscious 163-5 
United States 272-91 
unity 141 
unnameable 310 
unobserved object 85 
use value 82 
utterance see enunciation 

value, work as 81-2 

verisimilitude 109 

vertical status of word 36-7 

vices, personification of 69-70 

Vincent, J. -M. 19 

Vinci, Leonardo da 163, 177-8 

virgin 145-52 

Mary 146, 160-85 passim 
virtues, personification of 69-70 
voice, seeing 227-32 
vriel see true-real 

Waller, M. 24, 89 
White, A. 19, 22 
William of Occam 68-9 
Winnicott, D. 222, 246, 259, 263 

Christianity and 138, 145-52, 191 

see also China, women of; feminism; 
mother; Stabat Mater, time, women's 
Woolf, V. 157 

act as 51 

classification within narrative 43-4 

denotative or historical 44-7 

dialogue and 37-9 

Jesus as 66 

88 minimal unit 57 

status of 37 

virgin of 145-52 

within space of texts 36-7 

women separate from 143-4, 147 
work 81-3 

dream- 75, 83-4, HI 
Wright, E. 22 
writing 39, 86